Red Counties Outperform Blue Counties for Home Construction


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.

  1. 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 (
  1. 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.

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3 replies

  1. I am unsure of the value of this information. I am also suspicious of the motives of the study. Why would an industry want to add to the already politically divided environment that exists today.

    And furthermore, what action would be taken by the majority of all builders once they read this report. Would they pack their bags and move their family to a county that is performing better? Is there evidence of any cause/effect that we can rely on to make business decisions? Is the NAHB endorsing one color over another by publishing this report?

    Is it possible that the underlying economic performance of any area is the influence on the color of the county. And that economic performance is the basic driving force in the housing industry?

    I do not believe that politics influences the economy of a region, but that the regional economy influences everything including politics.

    I think we need less of the Red/Blue comparisons and more in-depth evaluation of the underlying economic factors that affect this industry. We need information that is actionable.

    • You’re saying “we need information that is actionable.” It’s in the report: “Red counties posted growth of 1.7% for single-family home building, while blue counties posted a decline of 1.2%. This is likely due to differences in land availability/cost, as well as regulatory differences for construction.”

      Your rhetorical question, “Why would an industry want to add to the already politically divided environment that exist today,” simply seems designed to make the report suspect. Builders, especially large builders who build homes in many different areas of the country, who are members of NAHB, and like support it financially so it can do studies like this, may use this information to decide where to invest more of their time, energy and money. It answers a simple question, which areas are likely to be more profitable and less of a regulatory headache than others. The flip side of the coin is that politicians of either party can see what impact their policies may have had. By the same token, voters can use this information to decide who to vote for based on whether they favor more or less growth in their communities.

      Information is no a bad thing.

  2. This is one of the best articles I have seen in a long time! Thank you for sharing~

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