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Schema Assumptions

Joist makes a few assumptions about your database schema, which basically assume you have a modern/pleasant database schema that you want directly mapped to your TypeScript domain model.

Entity Tables

Joist expects entity tables (i.e. authors, books) to have a single primary key column, id, that is either:

  1. A id / serial type, that uses a sequence called ${tableName}_id_seq, or
  2. A uuid type

And that is it; you can:

  • Use either singular or plural table names (author or authors)
  • Use either underscore or camel cased column names (first_name or firstName)

If you use plural table names, Joist will de-pluralize them for the entity name, e.g. authors -> Author.


We have added Postgres data types to Joist only as we've personally needed them; if you use a data type that Joist doesn't support yet, you'll get an error when running joist-codegen, but please just open an issue or PR, and we'll be happy to look in to it.

Deferred Constraints

Joist batches all INSERTs and UPDATEs within an EntityManager.flush, which results in the best performance, but means that foreign keys might be temporarily invalid (i.e. we've inserted a Book with an author_id before the Author is inserted).

Joist handles this by telling Postgres to temporarily defer foreign key checks until the end of the transaction.

To enable this, foreign keys must be created with this syntax:

CREATE TABLE "authors" (
"publisher_id" integer REFERENCES "publishers" DEFERRABLE INITIALLY DEFERRED,

If you're using node-pg-migrate for your migrations, Joist's joist-migration-utils NPM package has utility methods, i.e. createEntityTable and foreignKey, to apply these defaults for you, but you should be able to do the same in any migration library.


As a longer example explaining the nuance of insertion order, given Publisher/Author entities, if deferred FK constraints are not used then:

  • Sometimes Publisher needs flushed first to satisfy an authors.publisher_id foreign key constraint, but
  • Other times Author needs flushed first to satisfy a publishers.top_author_id foreign key constraint.
  • Or, even trickier, if mixing authors and publishers INSERTs and DELETEs in the same transaction: should we delete authors then insert publishers, or delete publishers then insert authors, etc.

Using deferred constraints makes this complexity & non-deterministic insertion order go away.


If you have an existing schema, and need to convert your existing foreign keys to deferrable, you can use pg-structure in a migration to loop over them like:

import pgStructure from "pg-structure";

const client = getYourDbClient();
const db = await pgStructure(client, { includeSchemas: "public" });
for (const table of db.tables) {
for (const constraint of table.constraints) {
if (constraint instanceof ForeignKey) {
await b.db.query(`

Timestamp Columns

Entity tables can optionally have created_at and updated_at columns, which Joist will automatically manage by setting created_at when creating entities, and updating updated_at when updating entities.

In joist-config.json, you can configure the names of the timestampColumns, which defaults to:

"timestampColumns": {
"createdAt": { "names": ["created_at", "createdAt"], "required": false },
"updatedAt": { "names": ["updated_at", "updatedAt"], "required": false }

For example, if you want to strictly require created_at and updated_at on all entities in your application's schema, you can use:

"timestampColumns": {
"createdAt": { "names": ["created_at"], "required": true },
"updatedAt": { "names": ["updated_at"], "required": true }

If you have non-Joist clients that update entities tables, or use bulk/raw SQL updates, you can create triggers that mimic this functionality (but will not overwrite INSERTs / UPDATEs that do set the columns), see joist-migration-utils.

(These methods use node-pg-migrate, but you can use whatever migration library you prefer to apply the DDL.)

Enum Tables

Joist models enums (i.e. EmployeeStatus) as their own database tables with a row-per-enum value.

For example, employee_status might have two rows like:

id  | code          | name
1 | FULL_TIME | Full Time
2 | PART_TIME | Part Time

And Joist will generate code that looks like:

enum EmployeeStatus {

This "enums-as-tables" approach allows the entities reference to the enum, i.e. Employee.status pointing to the EmployeeStatus enum, to use foreign keys to the enum table, i.e. employees.status_id is a foreign key to the employee_status table. This enables:

  1. Data integrity, ensuring that all status_id values are valid statuses, and
  2. Allows Joist's code generator to tell both that employees.status_id is a) of the type EmployeeStatus and b) how many enum values EmployeeStatus has.

Joist expects enum tables to have three columns:

  • id primary key/serial
  • code i.e. FOO_BAR
  • name i.e. Foo Bar

The joist-migration-utils package has createEnumTable, addEnumValue, and updateEnumValue helper methods to use in your migrations.

And, as mentioned, entities that want to use this enum should have a foreign key that references the appropriate enum table.

If you do not wish to use enums as tables, native enums can be used as well, and Joist will generate the Typescript enum.

Many-to-Many Join Tables

Joist expects join tables to have three or four columns:

  • id primary key/serial
  • One foreign key column for 1st side
  • One foreign key column for 2nd side
  • created_at timestamptz (optional)

(updated_at is not applicable to join tables.)