For the current edition of the Home Building Geography Index (HBGI), NAHB introduces a red vs. blue segmentation of the 3,221 counties of the United States.
“Red counties” are defined as those in which the majority of the population in the 2016 Presidential election voted for President Donald Trump, while “blue counties” are defined as those in which most of the population voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton1. The data show that the population distribution is 45.2% in red and 54.7% in blue2.
While the population of the country is almost evenly split between red and blue counties, the same is not true for the distribution of single-family and multifamily construction. In fact, 61% of single-family construction is in red counties, while 68% of multifamily construction are in the blue counties. Blue counties tend to feature greater population density, hence the divide.
Moreover, the growth rates for home construction differ between red and blue counties. The map above shows the blue and red counties in the U.S. and the four-quarter moving averages of their year-over-year growth rates for single-family construction as of the end of 2019. Red counties posted growth of 1.9% for single-family home building, while blue counties posted a decline of 1.4%. This is likely due to differences in land availability/cost, as well as regulatory differences for construction. Indeed, lower growth rates in blue counties – compared to red – is expected given the relative cost of land in major metropolitan areas, making building a single-family home more expensive in such areas.
While there are differences between these two types of counties, both regions’ performances at the end of 2019 were clear improvements to relative periods of decline due to the housing soft patch during 2018, as seen on the figure below.
Although blue county multifamily construction growth was positive in 2019 (7.2%), the relatively smaller share of apartment construction in red counties posted a larger growth rate of 24.3%. This shows that red counties outperformed blue counties in both single- and multifamily development
Additionally, the above chart shows that, until 2019, multifamily growth was lower than single-family expansion for most periods since 2016.
With this edition of the NAHB/HBGI, additional new posts will examine updates for regional trends (large metros vs exurbs vs rural areas, etc.) for single-family and multifamily construction, as well as additional red vs blue analysis from a regional perspective.
- We use Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections for election results at the county level. The red vs. blue segmentation cleanly applies to all U.S. states except for Alaska, which, by tradition, has had electoral votes casted in Presidential Elections according to House District. To circumvent this problem, we use a county-equivalent analysis that imputes House District-level election data that was done by RRH Elections (https://rrhelections.com/index.php/2018/02/02/alaska-results-by-county-equivalent-1960-2016/).
- Conventional wisdom is that the American population is concentrated in major metropolitan areas, i.e., those that voted for Hillary Clinton, even though the red counties far outnumber the blue, 2,636 over 503, respectively. The near 50-50 population split, as noted above, however, is due to the number of red counties with populations of 1,000 or above.