Why do people with good jobs still live out of their cars?

HERE is a story about an adjunct professor in San Jose California who cannot afford housing and is forced to live out of her car. The report talks about similar professionals and persons with jobs who live in high rent areas who have to live in campers or even their cars because of the high cost of housing.

HERE is another article about working professionals (teachers, nurses, chefs) all over California doing the same. They say its the same in Seattle.

I hate to sound rude but what I would like to know is why persons like this professor dont just up and move to a more affordable area? For example, my old college area of Lawrence Kansas (home to the University of Kansas) Kansas has an average rent about $600 of less than half of the $2,000 a month she mentions in San Jose. In all of Kansas City (home to over 5 different colleges) even a 3 bedroom apartment goes for only about $1,200 a month.

Now I understand it may be that she is tenured in California and that might be a factor. Maybe she just likes the atmosphere or the weather in San Jose but is it worth living in your car?

Why do working professionals stay living in high rent areas when they have to live in their car?

Just a few random thoughts:

They might be thinking they can get back on their feet, so that the homelessness is a temporary problem.
Moving is a bitch.
Moving isn’t cheap.
They may have some obligations in that area (kids living with a divorced spouse, etc) that precluding moving thousands of miles.
They may have an exaggerated/irrational fear of moving (e.g., the worst day in California is better than the best day in Kansas)
Jobs in some professions really aren’t easy to come by; like being an adjunct professor in English isn’t really a seller’s market.

Coming from the country with the world’s highest home ownership rate, I find it hard to understand how people can live in a trailer, let alone their car.
If I were to guess, I’d say these people are saving so that they can afford the home they dream of.

I’m probably way over simplifying, but from what I can tell the biggest “job centers” (i.e. major metro areas) have very high housing costs/cost of living, and the places with low-reasonable cost of living have next to no professional jobs.

She is not tenured, she is a adjunct professor. Adjuncts are kind of far down in the pecking order. The article says she makes $2,500 a month. If she can make that 12 months out of the year (probably not) it’s $30K.

I am in the middle of a Planet Money podcast about a woman who was teaching math at a community college in Marin County (CA) at $20/hr but by the time she factored in commuting costs, she said she was netting $12.50/hr*. So she got a job at a bakery for $12.50/hr. She wanted to move because she couldn’t afford to stay but she couldn’t afford to save enough money to pay for the costs of moving. The kind of story in the OP is common in the SF Bay area. (She goes on to be an activist for affordable housing.) She wasn’t homeless but it sounded like she was living on the edge.

ETA: That being said, the prof from the OP might be able to get comparable pay in Kansas City, Mo., with a much lower cost of living.

*The story didn’t explain this, but that is such a big bite I suspect she was taking her pay minus commuting costs and dividing by work time plus commuting time.

Costs of all kinds; housing, healthcare, education, food, etc. have been increasing faster than the rate of income for the last 40+ years. The basics of life keep getting more expensive while the luxuries keep getting cheaper. This allows the PTB to keep saying that things aren’t so bad, because in the aggregate costs are fairly stable. But for those just getting by, their basic costs of living go up every year but their income is, essentially, static (does not increase beyond the rate of inflation). This is resulting in ever more food insecurity and people finding alternate living arrangements. This is also the cause of the oft disparaged “lining in your parents basement” phenomenon that gets so much press.

But what she gets paid might be different in different areas as well. A relative of mine does a lot of work with colleges. She’s spent many, many years in Florida, Kansas and Wisconsin. At one point she was looking at a job in California. She also mentioned how much rent would be. This was probably 15 or 20 years ago and she was talking about a 1 bedroom apartment, if you can find it, is going to be 1500-2000 a month, considerably more than what she was currently paying. She also noted, though, that she’d be doing the same job but her pay would increase by considerably more than the difference in rent.

My half joking comment was that she should take the job, slum it for a few years and bring all the extra money back to a part of the country where living costs are a bit cheaper.

This story also mentions that the adjunct professor is supporting an unemployed husband and two dogs. Where are THEY living? Why isn’t the husband working? Why aren’t they getting rid of two dogs that they obviously cannot afford?

There are also cultural factors to consider. Rural or rural adjacent areas where rent it cheap are sometimes cultural wastelands and depression induced by living in such places outweighs the depression caused by having to live out of a car. The low-rent rural and rural adjacent areas can also be flat out dangerous to anyone who isn’t white, Protestant, heterosexual and steeped in whatever the local community is.

All I can say is …

I am completely surprised by the OP.

Stories like that have been very, very common in several metropolitan areas in the US and getting worse.

This is hardly new information.

Example: We have a relative that had an actual career. Appeared on a national TV show from time to time among other things. Couldn’t afford to live in their hometown anymore. Things were bad. E.g., electricity cut off due to failure to pay bills.

Finally moved to a cheaper area, but everything had to change career-wise. No longer appearing on national TV. And a long way away from familiar territory, family, friends, etc.

This area is also where we are from. Now that we’re retired we’d like to move back there. Even though we are doing much better than most retirees, that just won’t work.

Note that being an adjunct professor is really low paying. I’ve seen stats that as much as 40% of such folk qualify for aid. Tuition skyrockets, they bring in cheap adjuncts to teach. The money isn’t going to the profs.

The old “I’d rather live in my car than live in flyover country” syndrome, huh? :dubious:

You have a very elitist and condescending view of where most people live.

Whether you consider it elitist or not is not really responsive to the question of why some people end up living in cars in California rather than $600 apartments in Kansas.

San Jose is an expensive place to rent. Average for a one-bedroom these days is something like 2K/month. If you’re only making $2,500 a month you’re going to need a roommate or two.

Any idea what the average is to rent a 3 or 4 bedroom house?

Because it’s not that easy to just pick up and move somewhere. It’s been said that moving is tremendously expensive and who knows what you’re moving to? Finding a job is the hardest thing in the world, who’s to say there are jobs there? Is she going to look for a job in Kansas while in California? WIthout a home address? What about finding a job in Kansas? What’s she going to use as her home address there for the meantime?

Right. “Adjunct” means “part-time”: someone who is hired to teach one or more classes, but isn’t employed full-time.

Adjuncts include professionals with “day jobs” who do a little teaching on the side because they like it and find it rewarding; people who don’t want or need to work full time but who don’t want to be completely idle; and people who do want full-time positions but are taking what they can get.

HERE is what the teachers are paid at our local community college. I dont know if its high or low compared to other areas.

HERE are salaries at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

HERE is adjunct pay in Kansas City Missouri (UMKC).

Oh, and it does say she is tenured.

If that is what’s on their mind they have been grossly lied to or have acute paranoia. You find all kinds of people living in rural areas.

Besides the woman profiled is white, heterosexual. All that “culture” in big areas doesnt come cheap and either do all those fancy restaurants.

Honestly, yeah? Culture can be a huge thing for some people. I chose where I live because it has a lot of different food options. I have TWO different ramen places to choose from (not to mention all the other cuisine like carribean, turkish, greek, etc). I’m not getting that in 80% of the USA. It makes me inexpressibly happy to have this available. Not to mention if bands never play live concerts nearby, there’s few food festivals or block parties, or I can’t go to a local theater production of the Nutcracker that’s above high school level. You can call that elitist, I call that giving me some reason to leave the house. I’m not moving to Ansley, Nebraska if I can help it.