Rain or shine

7th June, 2008

The offer of a new job means I have the chance to move from sunny Assisi, the home of Saint Francis, to Luxembourg, one of the rainiest and cloudiest places in Europe. Of course the move will mean I have a better salary, but how much value should I place on the weather?

Dear Simone,

Lacking a hedonimeter, I cannot tell how much you love the sunshine. But I can tell you what others in your position have done.

Superficially, it seems that many people seek sunny climes, especially now that air conditioning is available. For example, long-run population growth in the “Sunbelt” – the US South – is often attributed to a demand for, well, sun.

Harvard economists Ed Glaeser and Kristina Tobio think otherwise. They argue that before 1980, the boom in the South was thanks to the region’s growing productivity. After 1980, population continued to grow, but house prices lagged behind those elsewhere in the US, suggesting that the driving force was not high demand but permissive planning rules. Certainly balmy California, with its tighter restrictions on building, did not enjoy the same population growth.

All of this tends to suggest that people don’t value sunshine quite as much as is supposed. In other words, don’t expect too much compensation for moving to Luxembourg: your more weatherproof rivals will do the job for less.

Also published at ft.com, subscription free.

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