Fitness Apartheid (Ep. 180)
A New York City apartment building has a gym that only certain tenants can use. Which tenants? The newer ones who are paying market-rate rents — and not the ones who’ve lived there long enough to qualify for much cheaper, government-subsidized rent. Some tenants call this “fitness apartheid.” What do economists call it?
That’s what this week’s show is about. The episode is called “Fitness Apartheid.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
You’ll hear Theda Palmer Saxton and Jean Green Dorsey, both residents of Stonehenge Village, the building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with the controversial gym. Stephen Dubner also talks to Steve Levitt and Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at Royal Holloway University of London and Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. (Hamermesh was on the show most recently talking about discrimination and looks.) As you’ll hear, Levitt and Hamermesh have pretty different points of view:
LEVITT: I would call this disrespect. It’s intentionally showing through your actions that you have no respect for the old-guard people, and rubbing it in their face in a way that markets don’t really do. Markets are not moral or immoral, they’re amoral. Markets don’t care. In a market world, you say, ‘I don’t care if you live here or not. I don’t care who the identity of the person is. As long as you pay the right price and you don’t impose negative stuff on other people, it’s fine.’
HAMERMESH: The owner had to spend money creating this gym, right? How is the owner going to get the money back by giving it away for free to people who are already getting an extremely good deal? Essentially what the people who are rent-controlled want is a bigger subsidy than what they’re already getting. Isn’t that pretty greedy?
Also in the episode, you’ll hear a discussion of “poor doors” in New York City, and a discussion of whether first-class seating in an airplane is also discriminatory.