October 4, 2005

Saletan's suburb

Slate's national correspondent William Saletan has denounced both Bill Bennett and myself in an article entitled "Natural Unborn Killers: The bigotry of Bill Bennett's low expectations." Saletan claims that it is not "morally acceptable to predict the criminal propensity of unborn children based on the color of their skin."

In response, I pointed out that Bennett was not predicting based on the color of the unborn children's future skin, but on the current behavior of their parents.

So, did Saletan follow his own moral advice when buying a house for himself and his family?

When you buy a home, you are making a bet about the future behavior of your neighbors and their children. For instance, in 1988, my wife and I bought a fairly inexpensive condominium in the then unfashionable Uptown neighborhood in Chicago's far northern lakefront. This is the most diverse neighborhood in Chicago, if not in all of America. We bet that the crime rate in Uptown was going to be less bad than many people expected, and that we would therefore make some money on our risky investment. After many slow years, that eventually turned out to be true, and we did well for ourselves when we sold 12 years later. (On the other hand, it wasn't good for our kids to grow up where they couldn't play on the street without being closely watched, so it was probably a mistake to buy there even though the crime trend moved in the direction we bet on.)

A different strategy is to buy into a definitely safe neighborhood with very low crime demographics. You have to pay a big premium upfront, but you know you aren't in danger of either being mugged or of the neighborhood's reputation for safety remaining dubious. And you can be pretty certain that the next generation of children born there will be law-abiding too, so you don't have to worry about being mugged by your neighbors' kids.

So, what did Mr. William it's-immoral-to-make-predictions-about-crime-based-on-race Saletan do with his own money?

Saletan, a native of Texas, lives and works in the Washington D.C. region, which is a highly diverse metropolitan area with no shortage of predominantly black neighborhoods in which he and his family could live. Some of these suburbs are fairly affluent, such as Prince George's County, MD. (The late Sam Francis, for instance, lived in Prince George's County.)

Saletan, though, has chosen not to live in Prince George's County, but instead five years ago, he and his wife bought into a very different Maryland suburb (I won't mention the name of the suburb to protect his privacy). The racial makeup of the suburb he moved to five years ago is:

Races in XXX:
* White (Not Hispanic) (81.7%)
* Latino (5.5%)
* African-American (2.7%)
* Chinese (2.5%)
* Two and/or more races (2.1%)
* Asian East Indian (1.8%)
* Misc. races (1.2%)
* Koreans (1.1%)
* Japanese (0.9%)
* Other *( Asian) (0.8%)
* Philipino (0.7%)

Degrees -- Professional and/or graduate: 49%
Household median income: $99,096 (year 2000)
House median value: $395,850 (year 2000 - God only know what it is today)

(I altered the numbers ever so slightly to make it hard for anyone to Google on them and find Saletan's suburb from them, but I didn't change the impact of the numbers .)

I'm sure Saletan was not discriminating against blacks when he moved to a D.C. suburb that only 2.7% black. I'm sure race had nothing to do with his choice. No, I'm sure he was just looking for a "safe neighborhood" with "good schools" and all those other euphemisms that whites use when they explain why they moved far away from blacks.

In 2000, Saletan wrote in Slate a description of the suburb he and his wife had just moved to:

People here are communal about the security patrol and the book club and the gardening club, but they are not communal about what is really important: property. The point of living in a nice American suburb, after all, is to have your own stuff. We recently met a young couple who live up the street and were invited into their house to participate in our national pastime, which we call envy. I was impressed with their foyer and their living room and their many bedrooms, but what has occupied my fantasies ever since is the husband's home gym... In XXX, however, the definitive sign of achievement is to possess your own weightlifting equipment. Whether you use it when others aren't looking is optional.

Like everyone else who has recently moved into the neighborhood, you will soon get a letter asking whether you might be willing to sell your house. This is because everyone is trying to buy a house in Washington right now, and nobody is selling them, so real estate agents are asking total strangers who had no intention of moving how much it will take to change their minds. The result is that housing prices have gone haywire. We like to call this perfect system capitalism. In Cuba, people talk about someday owning a nice house. In XXX, people who own nice houses talk about owning nicer houses, or at least about turning their houses into nicer houses by hiring contractors. Because our capitalist economy works so perfectly, good contractors have all the work they can handle, and the people in XXX are hitting each other up for advice on how to find somebody good to remodel their kitchens. My wife has excellent advice on this subject. Perhaps we will be able to trade it for symphony tickets.

One more thing. You will see a lot of parents with strollers and toddlers on the street in the evenings and on weekends. The neighborhood seems to be going through a transition. Old people are moving out, and young people with kids are moving in.

How about that 49% of residents have graduate or professional degrees!

Obviously, Saletan doesn't believe that you can predict anything about children from their parents...

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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