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Are Red or Blue States More Affordable for Consumers?

by Rachel Popa

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With the presidential primary just around the corner, ApartmentList.com recently analyzed Census data to see whether Republican- or Democratic-leaning states were more affordable for renters. While the study found that rents tend to be lower in inland states that are Rebublican-leaning, median renter incomes are lower as well. How do other states compare?

Blue States More Expensive for Consumers

According to ApartmentList.com’s findings, states that are Democrat-leaning are more expensive. Twelve of the most expensive states to live in are blue, the study found. When weighted for population, the median rent for blue states was $1,073. In comparison, the median rent for red states was $837.

The study found that all but two of the 17 states that have the lowest rent are Republican states. The study noted that Republican states tend to be located in the middle of the country, meaning that their rents are usually lower as a result. In comparison, many popular states like Hawaii and California tend to be Democratic states, which results in rents being higher for those states.

While rents tend to be higher in Democrat leaning states, median renter incomes are higher as well. The median income for blue states was $37,945, which is 21 percent higher than that of red states, which is $31,430. Red states also account for 15 of the 20 states with the lowest renter incomes, which may play into why rent is cheaper in red states, according to the study.

Least Affordable States for Consumers

ApartmentList.com also looked at which states had the highest amount of renters who are cost burdened. To be considered cost-burdened, a renter must spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. According to their findings, eight out of the 10 most unaffordable states were blue, with Hawaii, California and Oregon having a cost-burden rate of 55 percent. Weighted for population, the study found that blue states have a cost-burden rate of 52.7 percent, while red states have a cost-burden rate of 50.4 percent.

According to the study, the most unaffordable state was Republican-leaning Florida, with a cost burden rate of 58 percent. In general, however, the study found that red states are more affordable than blue states. Republican-leaning states like North and South Dakota as well as Wyoming have cost-burden rates below 50 percent.

Geography Plays a Role in Rent Affordability

ApartmentList.com concluded that geography, rather than ideology, can also affect whether or not a state is affordable for renters. For example, Florida, Hawaii and California are some of the least affordable states, but the study found that states that are inland tend to have lower rents.

However, the study noted that the data suggests that red states do tend to be more affordable than blue states. For example, Ohio, a red-leaning state, is more affordable than its neighbor Michigan, a blue state. ApartmentList.com also found that rents are increasing more quickly in blue states than in red states. Rents rose 20 percent from 2007 to 2014 in blue states, and only 17 percent in red states.

Methodology

To find out whether red or blue states were more affordable for renters, ApartmentList.com created a political affiliation index by using voting trends from all 50 states, including recent presidential elections, Senate and House delegations and the party affiliations of the last three governors.

ApartmentList.com then combined the political affiliation index with data from the Census including median renter income, rents and cost-burden rates. To determine which states were the most affordable, they compared red and blue states on a population-weighted basis.

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