Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The immigrant effect

The kind of analysis I've done below either fascinates the hell out of people, or scares the hell out of them, or offends the hell out of them, depending on their personal world views.  But having watched the situation reflected by the analysis unfold in real time and in person, I fall squarely into the first category, but first let me first explain why I made these charts presented below in the first place. 

I was vetting a local contractor who has done work for someone else in this subdivision, but that contractor was not authorized to share his Centerpointe client's identity with me (I wanted to cruise by and evaluate the exterior work the contractor did on their house). 

Thinking this was relatively harmless, the contractor did mention that client's first name to me, and it was a less-common first name.  No problem with me taking it from there - I simply went to GalvestonCAD, pulled every property tax record for Centerpointe, spreadsheeted them and did an "edit,find" for that name.  I literally had the address inside of 5 minutes.  Welcome to the Information Age. 

But having gone to that trouble, I then decided to parse those CAD records semi-quantitatively to illustrate something that I already knew from direct experience: that there is a subtle but visible difference in the ethnic make-up of Section 9 relative to all the other sections of Centerpointe. 

I made these homeowner ethnicity estimates purely by evaluating the most likely derivations of each owner name, and there's no doubt a healthy degree of error in these results, which of course are not guaranteed to represent reality - these are just very quick estimates based on CAD data.   The uncertainties would derive from issues such as mixed-race households, ambiguous names, etc.
We have a higher proportion of immigrants, especially first-generation Asian immigrants, in Section 9.  The reason for this is not difficult to understand:  you had to be God to qualify for a mortgage during the time period represented by the Section 9 development.  It was insane.  The American mortgage crisis and resulting world-wide recession arguably began around September 13, 2008 - the same day as Hurricane Ike came ashore.  We pre-qualified for our mortgage less than one year later in July or August 2009.  Nobody was getting mortgages at that time unless they were utterly stainless. 

We were one of the initial dirt-sale contracts in Section 9, so I get to claim some measure of "we were here first" empirical wisdom.  I tried to go around talking with each new homeowner as their individual builds (or buys) cropped up.  It was a fascinating people-watching experience, because each and every one of them (regardless of ethnicity) had some story to tell of iron-willed personal financial discipline.  I've lived in many subdivisions over the past 20-odd years, but these new Section 9-ers were the most focused and driven group of suburbanites I've ever seen assembled in one place at one time.  The mortgage crisis was an incredibly efficient sorting mechanism for post-crisis suburban developments such as ours. 

My personal theory is that the Asian immigrant work ethic and thrift-related values gave them a slight edge in the brutal mortgage qualification process, resulting in today's higher percentage in Section 9.  Some folks will no doubt take offense to a statement like that, and I don't intend any offense.  But there is some truth to the Asian stereotype I'm referencing.  As the linked article above notes, "Reports on census data are one of the few times it is permissible to discuss immigration and race without risking accusations of prejudice. After all, the census data do not lie."  I don't have Census data on the fine scale of this subdivision, but I have what is perhaps the next best thing:  CAD data.  And they do not lie. 

For what it's worth in fascination or other impact.  This is an impact of American history still resonating and reverberating like a giant reality bell having been rung, right here on our streets.  Have a great day.    

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