How birthrates color the electoral map
The Baby Gap: Explaining Red and Blue
by Steve Sailer
The American Conservative, December 20, 2004
Here's David Brooks' New York Times op-ed that was based on my article: "The New Red-Diaper Babies."
And here's my sequel to "Baby Gap" from VDARE.com where I unveil a demographic factor even more important in deciding the vote than the baby gap: the marriage gap.
Here, you can find graphs and data tables, along with reader responses and additional information.
An excerpt from my article:
the "issues" that so excite political journalists had but a
meager impact on most voters... If a demographic or regional
group supported Bush's "humble" foreign policy in 2000, they
supported his Alexandrine ambitions in 2004, and vice-versa.
a scatter plot showing how closely Bush's share of the vote in a state
correlates with the number of babies per white woman. The blue dot way
down in the lower left corner represents Washington D.C. and the red dot
way up in the right corner is Utah.
The rest of the article explains how people come to sort themselves out geographically by family size. It also looks at how this perspective can shed light on gun control, vouchers, and environmentalism. The Dec. 20th edition of The American Conservative should be on newsstands shortly. You can subscribe here. You can obtain the magazine electronically by subscribing to the Electronic Edition.
Here's the data:
[Ethan Herdrick has kindly plotted the Total Fertility Rate - Whites and Bush's Share of the Vote on a nifty map of the U.S. -- Just hover your cursor over the two white boxes on the top and the map will flip from one variable to another. We're still fooling around a little bit with the color schemes, but you'll see that California, for example, doesn't change color because its white fertility and Bush share fall right on the best fit line.]
More reader responses to my article "The Baby Gap:"
Adam Carstens of North Star Leadership Group looked up some useful information in the General Social Survey database. He found that for incomes below $50k (in 1998), white Republicans only have a very small advantage in number of children over white Democrats. But at higher incomes, Republicans have significantly more children. For example, white "Strong Republicans" with incomes of $50k or more average 2.16 children versus 1.62 children for white Democrats of either "Strong" or "Not Strong" fervency of the same income range. That's 1/3 more children.
At $90k and above, "Strong Republicans" average 2.47 children versus 2.04 kids for "Not Strong Republicans," and 1.56 for Democrats as a whole. The sample sizes are little small for slicing and dicing too narrowly, but the pattern seems apparent.
The only county-level natality data (SPSS or SAS) I know of is Local Area Summary Data Files, but you have to be a member of an ICPSR-affiliated institution to download it, or you have to be affiliated with institutions that have the data like UCLA.
Anybody know how I can get my hands on this data?
I wonder if it is possible to merge your lifetime fertility theory with some data about domestic migration. I have long believed that the profound domestic migration southward and westward is disproportionately made up of people prone to vote Republican (simplistically, it seems quite likely that the union workers, government workers and blacks stay behind). My guess would be that those moving consist of large corporation employees (dozens of Fortune 500 companies have moved to Texas and Georgia) and the small business entrepreneurs that spring up to service them. And guess what--the women have subordinated their careers to that the husbands can have the necessary career mobility.
mention in passing how the cost of private schools factor into attitudes
in the South, and you're correct that most whites, especially those
dedicated to education, find public schools unacceptable. Part of it is
that public schools have become vehicles for social engineering rather
than education, and there's also less geographic distance between social
classes or races than elsewhere. Tracking might offer a solution, but
the educational profession won't permit it and the stakes of ending in
the wrong track are just too high. While wealthy, professionals with
bright, well-adjusted children might take the risk, most people won't;
as you say, people want to keep their daughter's off the pole and their
son's out of trouble. So I've noticed lot of working class families work
an extra job to pay for tuition at a private academy, and the local
academy where I live is a lot more diverse in terms of income and
parental education level than the private schools my children attended
in the Northeast.
Maureen Dowd's siblings and the Baby Gap: Nicely illustrating my new article "The Baby Gap: Explaining Red and Blue," snippy NYT columnist Maureen Dowd lets her ultra-Republican brother write her column for her. Maureen, of course, is an unmarried 52-year-old liberal woman who lives in Washington D.C. (average number of babies per white woman: 1.1; not coincidentally, Bush's share of the vote: 9%). The underlying theme running through her writing is her desperate effort to silence the little voice in her head that tells her she has wasted her life by not getting married and having babies.
Maureen comes from what I presume is a big Irish Catholic family (she's a 1973 graduate of Catholic U.) and her brothers and sisters are staunchly Republican. Her brother Kevin, a salesman, writes:
My wife and I picked our sons' schools based on three criteria: 1) moral values 2) discipline 3) religious maintenance - in that order. We have spent an obscene amount of money doing this and never regretted a penny. Last week on the news, I heard that the Montgomery County school board voted to include a class with a 10th-grade girl demonstrating how to put a condom on a cucumber and a study of the homosexual lifestyle. The vote was 6-0. I feel better about the money all the time.
Now, if only Kevin lived in suburban Virginia (a red state) instead of suburban Maryland (a blue state), the Dowd clan would fit my thesis perfectly.
One important point that I might not have made hugely clear in my article is that this red-blue fertility breakdown probably works even better at the county level than at the state level that I used. All states are a mix of urban, suburban, exurban, small town, and purely rural counties, so all we can do at the state-level is look at a continuum from blue New Jersey and Rhode Island at one end of the density scale to red Alaska and Wyoming at the other end. The one exception is purely urban Washington D.C., which is off by itself with an ultra-low white fertility and ultra-low Bush percentage. It's probably fairly representative of big cities, although I suspect it's a bit of a caricature.
If you know where I could find fertility or family size data by county, please let me know.
Reponses to my article "The Baby Gap" (see below for an excerpt from my article):
thing that I find very frustrating is the way journalists use statistics
to create an argument.
Very helpful and informative.
The Importance of the Baby Gap Is Growing: In my American Conservative article, I pointed out the extraordinarily high correlation between Bush's share of the vote by state in 2004 and the states' total fertility rate (estimated average number of babies lifetime) for white women in 2002: 0.86. You square that number to get the percentage of the variation in Bush's share predictable from the fertility rate: 74%. Has this always been the key to explaining the outcome of Presidential elections by state?
To find out, I've gone back into the National Center for Health Statistics document (warning: it's a big PDF), and pulled out the corresponding white TFRs for 1995 and 1990. (I couldn't find the figures for other years). If we use the 1990 white fertility rates by state and compare them to George H.W. Bush's share of the vote by state in his 1988 victory over another Democrat from Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, then the correlation, while still strong, is significantly lower than in recent years: r=0.71, r-squared=51% versus the 74% in 2004. So, fertility by state was only about 70% as strong a factor 16 years ago compared to this year's election. The Baby Gap has always been a big deal, but it's turning into a bigger deal.
Bush the Elder's correlation with the 1990 TFRs dropped sharply in 1992 down to an r-squared of only 28%, but that was mostly because of Ross Perot's strong run. If we sum Bush's and Perot's shares, the R-squared goes back up to 59%, up from 51%.
Dole was up to 61% in 1996, correlated with the 1995 TFRs, and Dole + Perot was at 68%.
Bush the Younger hit 73% in 2000 versus the 2002 TFRs, and 74% in 2004.
Another question is whether changes in fertility per state are driving changes in voting behavior by state? The answer appears to be: a little, but not a huge amount. The correlation between change in white TFR from 1990 to 2000 and change in Republican share of the vote from 1988 to 2004 is only 0.31 or 9%.
However, if this was weighted by population size of the states, it might be more impressive because of the huge change in California. Nationally, white fertility is down 1% from 1990 to 2002, but in California, it plummeted 14%. From 1988 to 2004, the GOP candidate's share of the vote dropped 2 percentage points nationally, but 7 points in California.
Generally speaking, white fertility from 1990 to 2002 has dropped the most in the Far West and upper New England. It has grown the most in Washington D.C., New Jersey, and Connecticut. My guess is that the big drop in crime with the end of the crack epidemic made the cost of insulating children a little less in those densely populated areas.
One interesting question is how much differences in the abortion rate account for differences in the birth rate by state. A reader sent me this table, which is for all races. Another complication is that abortion statistics are often recorded by the state of the clinic not the state of the client. So, a woman from red West Virginia might drive into blue Pennsylvania for an abortion. Still, by looking at mostly white blue states like Vermont and Oregon versus mostly white red states, it does appear that pro-life red states do indeed practice what they preach -- the denizens of Nevada being an obvious exception to that rule. (I continue to be amazed that large numbers of parents of little girls are moving their families to booming Las Vegas. As Chris Rock says, "Fathers, your prime duty is to keep your daughters off The Pole.")
I was a little surprised by this. I sort of expected Massachusetts women to be well enough organized that they wouldn't have many unwanted pregnancies, but that turned out not to be true.
It's not clear whether legalized abortion actually reduces the total fertility rate among whites by very much. A recent Rand Corp. study estimated that outlawing abortion would raise the average number of babies per white woman only from 1.83 to 1.89. Without legal abortion to fall back on in case of unplanned pregnancies, white people would plan better and thus avoid unplanned pregnancies, according to the Rand researcher.
Ethan Herdrick has done another US state map visualizing the information in this table.