Moore on Climate Preferences
By Bryan Caplan
A year ago, I asked:
Suppose you surveyed a random sample of Americans with the following question:
“Overall, would you rather the climate in the area you live got warmer, got cooler, or stayed the same?”
We do know that, upon retiring, many people flee to southern and warmer locales. According to a 1966 survey of Americans turning 50 in 1996, almost 40 percent planned to move when they retired and the most important criterion in selecting their destination (40 percent) was a ‘‘more favorable climate’’ (USA Today, May 13, 1996, B1). People retire to Florida, not Minnesota. Presumably retirees, at least, find that higher temperatures improve their welfare. As air-conditioning has mitigated the rigors of hot summers, the population of the United States has been moving south and west, toward regions that suffer less extreme cold weather. Most Americans and Canadians taking vacations in the winter head to Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, or southern California. Exceptions crowd the ski slopes, but they are a minority.
To my knowledge only one study—summarized in the U.S. Department of Transportation research described in the previous chapter—has examined human preferences for various climates, an important measure of how weather affects human welfare (Hoch and Drake 1974). Many studies examining the quality of life in various urban areas, however, have found that warmer climates are correlated with a willingness to accept lower wages (Hoch and Drake 1974; Hoch 1977; Cropper and Arriaga-Salinas 1980; Cropper 1981; Roback 1982, 1988; Gyourko and Tracy 1991). As a gauge of preferences, that research and this chapter both use workers’ willingness to pay for a better climate as measured by the differential in wages among cities.
About what I expected, but good to know.