As part of that presentation, Prof. Bluestone stated that the United States is in the midst of a third – but undeclared – civil war. He described the three “civil wars” as follows:
1. First civil war: 1861-1865 regarding staying a unified country and eliminating slavery, and “Thank God the North won.”
2. Second civil war: Again between the North and South as to where manufacturing would be located, in the late 1980s-early 1990s – and the South won.
3. Third, and current “civil war” – is for where the productive young adults, ages 25- 45 will live and work. As the bulk of the baby boomers retire, the location of these young adults will determine which states have the revenue to maintain their infrastructure and improve their programs. More than 50% of state revenue comes from taxes on earned income – and the post 65 baby boomers are a decreasing source of earned income and an increasing source of expenditure.
According to Bluestone, the single most important factor as to where these young, working adults will live is affordable housing, including rentals. The very bad news is that at this time the Boston area is the second most expensive place for housing in the United Startes, behind only San Diego. Even New York City and Honolulu are cheaper to rent or buy housing in than the Boston Metro area.
You don’t have to take my word for this, though. Read the report, look at the graphs.
Unfortunately, as housing prices in this area for purchase have decreased somewhat, rental prices have increased, and the available housing for young families and young adults is getting more expensive, not less so.
This is very bad news.
As recently as last year, there were 90,000 unfilled and unfillable technical jobs in our state. Why? In part, our community colleges and state schools, whose graduates normally stay around, are not graduating enough students as private college and univerity students mostly leave the state after graduation, per MAPC. The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission has done some very interesting research in this area,which can be seen on its website.
Therefore, for long term sustainable growth, Massachusetts and the Boston area need to “win” the third civil war.
Winning the war for young adults to stay in or choose Massachusetts will require an investment not in companies like Evergreen Solar. What is required is investing in and building affordable housing, as well as subsidies to local community colleges and and universities. These schools graduate the technical workers, such as biotechnology and computer applications and web development, as well as good auto mechanics, HVAC, and the like – to decent living wage jobs of tomorrow. After all, repair of your car is not going to be outsourced to India or Malaysia.
Investment in large quantities of affordable housing NOW would provide current jobs – and keep those tax paying young workers able to live near their parents and grandparents. They would be the taxpayers of tomorrow.
Investment in public state education for today’s technical and hands-on jobs like auto mechanics, electricians, computer repair and HVAC would preserve and add to jobs now – and help Massachusetts win that “third civil war” by preventing erosion of productive young workers to other states.
We are losing population because we are not investing in affordable housing and public schools that teach the skills needed for the jobs young workers need in large enough numbers.