What accounts for the resilience of the Texas economy, which has outperformed the rest of the country not only over the long term but during the Great Recession as well? A pro-business climate has unquestionably been a substantial advantage. In its annual ranking of business environments, Chief Executive has named Texas the most growth-friendly state for eight years in a row. (California has been last for the same eight years.) The reasons included low taxes and sensible regulations; a high-quality workforce (Texas ranked second only to Utah in that category in 2012); and a pleasant living environment (an eighth-place finish, slightly below sixth-place Florida but, perhaps surprisingly, far better than 28th-place California).
Part of the explanation for the high living-environment score is doubtless Texas’s low cost of living. In 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis put Texas’s “regional price parity,” a measurement of the price level of goods in an area, at 97.1, a bit lower than the national level of 100 and far lower than the California level of 114.8. Adjusted for cost of living, Texas’s per-capita income is higher than California’s and nearly as high as New York’s. Factor in state and local taxes, and Texas pulls ahead of New York.
More than three-quarters of the cost-of-living difference between Texas and California can be explained by housing costs. As Figure Six shows, Texas mostly dodged the real-estate bubble of the 2000s: the affordability of houses in large metro areas spiked in America as a whole but rose only modestly in Texas.