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U.S. Home Prices, Sung As Opera

Jess Jiang
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Case-Shiller home price index

The Case-Shiller home price index is a powerful way to look at the story of housing in America. You can see the boom and bust all in one simple graph.

But when we go on the radio to talk about home prices, a graph isn't much good to us — nobody can see it.

So we converted the Case-Shiller graph into musical notes.

We gave the sheet music to Timothy McDevitt, a baritone who's getting a master's degree at Juilliard. Then we got Karl Case and Robert Shiller — the economists who created the index — to listen to the music weigh in.

Here's what the past decade of housing in America sounds like:

A Decade of U.S. Home Prices

The national song is based on Case-Shiller's 20-city composite. For comparison, we also turned data from a couple U.S. cities into music.

Here's Miami, the city with the biggest boom:

A Decade of Miami Home Prices

"I could see those towers, those cranes, building those condo buildings on Miami Beach," Case said. "Some of those cranes are still there. They're not building much now."

And here's Dallas:

A Decade of Dallas Home Prices

Shiller said Texas had a big housing boom and bust a few decades ago. That helped the state dodge the latest round of housing mania:

Secret bonus track:

Here's the past decade of home prices in America — with both melody and words:

A Decade of U.S. Home Prices: (With Words)

Thanks to Planet Money's Jess Jiang, who figured out how to convert Case-Shiller numbers into musical notes.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jacob Goldstein is an NPR correspondent and co-host of the Planet Money podcast. He is the author of the book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing.
David Kestenbaum
David Kestenbaum is a correspondent for NPR, covering science, energy issues and, most recently, the global economy for NPR's multimedia project Planet Money. David has been a science correspondent for NPR since 1999. He came to journalism the usual way — by getting a Ph.D. in physics first.