Few things are more amusing in life than finding your instinctive suppositions (or theories) to be confirmed by statistical fact. That's what happened to me this week when I perused the website of the Corporation for Economic Development.
Consider these two state-ranking factoids: 1. Vermont is no. 49 in the nation for the 2008 wage level. At $31,320, it's well below the national average of $44,458 and it's just above only Montana, which came in at $30,663. The District of Columbia ranks no. 1 at $53,330-there's your hard-earned tax dollars at work, eh?
Vermont is No. 9 in the nation for the 2007 homeownership rate.
At 69.5 percent, Vermont is comfortably above the national average of 64.2 percent; it lies statistically in the same economic zone as such higher-income states as Pennsylvania (no. 8) and Indiana (no. 10). Even to the amateur economist such as your humble scribe, these statistics appear to be mutually contradictory-that is, with low average income and high average homeownership. What gives?
To explain the paradox, I fall back on my "Daddy Warbucks Theory of Intergenerational Wealth Transfer". It's the Occam's Razor or simplest-possible explanation for the economic phenomenon of apparently low-income folks not finding much profit in growing organic green beans at the local farmers' market, but living quite comfortably, thank you, in housing which costs well above the national average (30 percent of income).
In Vermont, the average is 39.5 percent, which puts the state at no. 38 out of 50-only a dozen U.S. states are more expensive to live in-shown in the CFED category of housing cost burden.
We don't have state-by-state data on housing size in square footage, but it's safe to guess that these aren't little 900 square feet Depression-era cottages (relatively rare in New England but quite common in the rest of Appalachia; yes, Vermont is technically a part of Appalachia if you look at a map of the East Coast's range of mountains).