Money and Convenience

Brimmer and May represents over 60 communities in the Boston area—many of them over an hour from School, says Director of Middle and Upper School Admissions Brian Beale. This reflects a growing national trend of families moving to lower-cost neighborhoods to save on housing.

“People’s increase in salaries have not increased at a commensurate rate to the cost of living increases in the Boston area,” Beale says. “It is something that we, like other independent schools, struggle with.”

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, it turns out that wages in places attracting the most migrants are typically lower than in the places those migrants come from. Paul Krugman of The New York Times suggests that the cost of living, driven by housing prices, is cheaper in the areas of relatively low income. Construction regulations in some states raise housing prices, whereas in the South, “supply is elastic and cost of living is low.”

A survey by the Census Bureau shows median family incomes are significantly lower in the places to which more people are moving. Texas and Indiana have median incomes of $59,000 and $58,000, respectively, while blue states Massachusetts and California provide median wages of $82,000 and $68,000. Not only that, but the average job in Houston pays 12 percent less than in New York—and 22 percent less in Atlanta.

“When my mother lost her job, we moved to try and save money,” says Jalen Latimer ’17. “What makes Dorchester a good place to live in is the low cost of housing.”

It takes Latimer over an hour to get to school. If his family could afford to live closer to Boston, where housing prices are generally higher, things might be different, he explains. “My mom would be able to get to work quicker and do more overtime.”

Althea Hill ‘17 lives in nearby Chestnut Hill. Her family considered moving to Vermont, where, Hill says, “the houses are cheaper.”

Food service provider Debbie O’Malley talks about what she notices as a Boston resident. “The price of rent went up high. It’s convenient but expensive,” she says. This explanation is consistent with Krugman’s theory. Areas of higher income are “convenient” because of solid wages, but pricey because housing costs eat into the wages.

Is convenience worth the costs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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