[Paleopsych] Steve Sailer: Baby Gap: How birthrates color the electoral map
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Tue Jan 25 15:03:46 UTC 2005
Baby Gap: How birthrates color the electoral map
December 20, 2004 issue (note date)
By Steve Sailer
Despite the endless verbiage expended trying to explain America's
remarkably stable division into Republican and Democratic regions,
almost no one has mentioned the obscure demographic factor that
correlated uncannily with states' partisan splits in both 2000 and
Clearly, the issues that so excite political journalists had but a
meager impact on most voters. For example, the press spent the last
week of the 2004 campaign in a tizzy over the looting of explosives at
Iraq's al-Qaqaa munitions dump, but, if voters even noticed al-Qaqaa,
their reactions were predetermined by their party loyalty.
The 2000 presidential election, held during peace and prosperity,
became instantly famous for illuminating a land culturally divided
into a sprawling but thinly populated "red" expanse of Republicans
broken up by small but densely peopled "blue" archipelagos of
Four years of staggering events ensued, during which President Bush
discarded his old "humble" foreign policy for a new one of nearly
Alexandrine ambitions. Yet the geographic and demographic profiles of
Bush voters in 2004 turned out almost identical to 2000, with the
country as a whole simply nudged three points to the right.
Only a few groups appeared to have moved more than the average. The
counties within commuting distance of New York's World Trade Center
became noticeably less anti-Bush. Yet even the one purported sizable
demographic change--the claim by the troubled exit poll that Bush
picked up nine points among Hispanics--appears to be an exaggeration
caused by small sample sizes and poor survey techniques. In the real
world, Hispanic counties swung toward Bush only about as much as
everybody else did.
That the president launched a war under false pretenses no doubt
caused a few highly-informed constituencies, such as the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, the CIA, and the subscribers to this magazine, to shift many
of their votes, but almost every group large enough to be measurable
by exit polling was relatively stable. If they supported Bush's
foreign policy in 2000, they supported his contrary stance in 2004 and
Still, this doesn't mean voters are choosing red or blue frivolously.
Indeed, voters are picking their parties based on differing approaches
to the most fundamentally important human activity: having babies. The
white people in Republican-voting regions consistently have more
children than the white people in Democratic-voting regions. The more
kids whites have, the more pro-Bush they get.
I'll focus primarily on Caucasians, who overall voted for Bush 58-41,
in part because they are doing most of the arguing over the meaning of
the red-blue division. The reasons blacks vote Democratic are obvious,
and other racial blocs are smaller. Whites remain the 800-pound
gorilla of ethnic electoral groups, accounting for over three out of
every four votes.
The single most useful and understandable birthrate measure is the
"total fertility rate." This estimates, based on recent births, how
many children the average woman currently in her childbearing years
will have. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that in
2002 the average white woman was giving birth at a pace consistent
with having 1.83 babies during her lifetime, or 13 percent below the
replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. This below-replacement
level has not changed dramatically in three decades.
States, however, differ significantly in white fertility. The most
fecund whites are in heavily Mormon Utah, which, not coincidentally,
was the only state where Bush received over 70 percent. White women
average 2.45 babies in Utah compared to merely 1.11 babies in
Washington, D.C., where Bush earned but 9 percent. The three New
England states where Bush won less than 40 percent--Massachusetts,
Vermont, and Rhode Island--are three of the four states with the
lowest white birthrates, with little Rhode Island dipping below 1.5
babies per woman.
Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility (just as
he did in 2000), and 25 out of the top 26, with highly unionized
Michigan being the one blue exception to the rule. (The least prolific
red states are West Virginia, North Dakota, and Florida.)
In sharp contrast, Kerry won the 16 states at the bottom of the list,
with the Democrats' anchor states of California (1.65) and New York
(1.72) having quite infertile whites.
Among the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., white total fertility
correlates at a remarkably strong 0.86 level with Bush's percentage of
the 2004 vote. (In 2000, the correlation was 0.85.) In the social
sciences, a correlation of 0.2 is considered "low," 0.4 "medium," and
You could predict 74 percent of the variation in Bush's shares just
from knowing each state's white fertility rate. When the average
fertility goes up by a tenth of a child, Bush's share normally goes up
by 4.5 points.
In a year of predictably partisan books, one lively surprise has been
What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank, a left-wing journalist
from Kansas who, after a sojourn in Chicago, now lives with his wife
and single child in the Democratic stronghold of Washington, D.C.
Frank is puzzled by why conservative Republicans in his home state are
obsessed with cultural issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and
teaching evolution in the schools instead of the leftist economic
populism that Frank admires in Kansas's past.
While the Christian Right in Kansas doesn't much hold with Darwin,
they are doing well at the basic Darwinian task of reproducing
themselves: pro-life Kansas has the fourth-highest white fertility in
the country at 2.06 babies per woman, and the birthrate of the
conservative Republicans that Frank finds so baffling is likely to be
even higher. On the crucial question of whether a group can be
bothered not to die out, "What's the Matter with Massachusetts?" would
be a more pertinent question. Massachusetts's whites are failing to
replace themselves, averaging only 1.6 babies per woman, and the
state's liberal Democrats are probably reproducing even less than
So white birthrates and Republican voting are closely correlated, but
what causes what? The arrow of causality seems to flow in both
To understand what's driving this huge political phenomenon, you have
to think like a real-estate shopper, not like an intellectual.
Everybody loves to talk real estate, but the sharp insights into how
the world works that you hear while shooting the breeze about houses
and neighborhoods seldom work their way into prestigious discourse
about public affairs.
As you've seen on all those red-blue maps, most of America's land is
red, even though Kerry won 48 percent of the vote. Even excluding vast
Alaska, Bush's counties are only one-fourth as densely populated on
average as Kerry's counties. Lower density helps explain why red
regions both attract the baby-oriented and encourage larger families
among those already there.
A dozen years ago, University of Chicago sociologist Edward O. Laumann
and others wrote a tome with the soporific postmodern title The Social
Organization of Sexuality. I wrote to them and suggested a follow-up
called The Sexual Organization of Society because, in my experience
with Chicago, where people lived coincided with their sexual status.
In 1982, when I moved to Chicago as a young single man, I sought out
detailed advice on where the greatest density of pretty girls lived
and there rented a 21st-floor apartment with a stunning view of Lake
Michigan. I became engaged three years later, and so, mission
accomplished, I moved to a less chic neighborhood with more affordable
rents. Two years later, when my bride became pregnant, we relocated to
an even more unfashionable spot where we could buy ample square
footage. (To my satisfaction, Laumann's team just this year published
a categorization of Chicago's neighborhoods entitled The Sexual
Organization of the City.)
My experience is hardly unusual. Singles often move to cities because
the density of other singles makes them good places to become
unsingle. But singles, especially women, generally vote Democratic.
For example, in the 2002 midterm elections, only 39 percent of
unmarried women and 44 percent of unmarried men voted for a GOP
candidate for the House of Representatives. In contrast, 56 percent of
married women voted for the GOP, similar to their husbands' 58
percent. The celebrated gender gap is, in truth, largely a marriage
gap among women.
When city couples marry, they face major decisions: do they enjoy the
adult-oriented cultural amenities of the city so much that they will
stick it out, or do they head for the suburbs, exurbs, or even the
country to afford more space for a growing family?
Couples attempting to raise children in a big blue city quickly learn
the truth of what bond trader Sherman McCoy's father told him in Tom
Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities: "If you want to live in New York,
you've got to insulate, insulate, insulate." Manhattan liberals all
believe in celebrating diversity in theory but typically draw the line
at subjecting their own offspring to it in the public schools. With
Manhattan private K-12 school tuitions now approaching $25,000,
insulating multiple children rapidly becomes too expensive for all but
the filthy rich.
In tempting contrast, the cost-of-living calculator provided by
Realtor.com says that a $100,000 salary in liberal Manhattan buys only
as much as a $38,000 salary in conservative Pinehurst, North Carolina.
Likewise, a San Francisco couple earning $100,000 between them can
afford just as much in Cedar City, Utah if the husband can find a
$44,000-a-year job--and then the wife can stay home with their
children. Moreover, the culture of Cedar City is more conducive to
child rearing than San Francisco. Having insulated themselves through
distance rather than money, they can now send their kids to public
schools. (Among red states, the South has lower white fertility than
the northern Great Plains and Great Basin, perhaps because many
Southern conservatives, like many Manhattan liberals, prefer private
schools, which makes children more expensive than out in Lewis & Clark
Country, where the public schools are popular because they aren't
terribly diverse.) In Cedar City, the wife won't feel as unprestigious
for being a stay-at-home mom as she would in San Francisco. And mom
won't have to chauffeur the kids everywhere because traffic and crime
are light enough that they can ride their bikes.
With more children, the couple will have less money per child to buy
insulation from America's corrosive media culture, so they are likely
to look to the government for help. Typically, red-region parents
don't ask for much, often just for quasi-symbolic endorsements of
family values, the non-economic gestures that drive Thomas Frank
crazy. But there's nothing irrational about trying to protect and
guide your children. As the socially conservative black comedian Chris
Rock advises fathers, "Your main job is to keep your daughter off The
Pole" (i.e., to keep her from becoming a stripper).
That red-region parents want their politicians to endorse morality
does not necessarily mean that red staters always behave more morally
than blue staters. While there are well-behaved red states such as
Utah and Colorado, hell-raising white Texans are 3.4 times more likely
than white New Yorkers to be behind bars. Similarly, whites in
conservative Mississippi and South Carolina are one-sixth as likely as
blacks in those states to be imprisoned, compared to the national
average of one-ninth. By contrast, in ultra-liberal Washington D.C.,
whites are only one-fifty-sixth as likely to be in the slammer as
The late socialist historian Jim Chapin pointed out that it was
perfectly rational for parents with more children than money to ask
their political and cultural leaders to help them insulate their kids
from bad examples, even, or perhaps especially, if the parents
themselves are not perfect role models.
Focusing on children, insulation, and population density reveals that
blue-region white Democrats' positions on vouchers, gun control, and
environmentalism are motivated partly by fear of urban minorities.
In 2001, the Wall Street Journal's favorite mayor, Brett Schundler,
ran for governor of New Jersey on a platform of vouchers to help
inner-city children attend better schools in the suburbs. The now
notorious Democrat Jim McGreevey beat him badly because white suburban
moderates shunned this Republican who put the welfare of urban
minority children ahead of their own. These homeowners were scraping
together big mortgage payments precisely to get their kids into
exclusive suburban school districts insulated from what they saw as
the ghetto hellions that Schundler hoped to unleash on their children.
They had much of their net worths tied up in their homes, and their
property values depended on the local public schools' high test
scores, which they feared wouldn't survive an onslaught of slum
children. So they voted Democratic to keep minorities in their place.
The endless gun-control brouhaha, which on the surface appears to be a
bitter battle between liberal and conservative whites, also features a
cryptic racial angle. What blue-region white liberals actually want is
for the government to disarm the dangerous urban minorities that
threaten their children's safety. Red-region white conservatives,
insulated by distance from the Crips and the Bloods, don't care that
white liberals' kids are in peril. Besides, in sparsely populated
Republican areas, where police response times are slow and the chances
of drilling an innocent bystander are slim, guns make more sense for
self-defense than in the cities and suburbs.
White liberals, angered by white conservatives' lack of racial
solidarity with them, yet bereft of any vocabulary for expressing such
a verboten concept, pretend that they need gun control to protect them
from gun-crazy rural rednecks, such as the ones Michael Moore
demonized in "Bowling for Columbine," thus further enraging red-region
Likewise, liberals in blue areas such as Northern California pioneer
environmental restrictions on development in part to keep out illegal
immigrants and other poor minorities. Thinly populated Republican
areas are pro-development because increasing density raises property
values as once remote regions obtain roads, sewer hookups, cable
television, local shopping, and nice restaurants. If poorly planned,
however, overcrowding causes property values to lag, allowing poor
people to move in.
Conservative Southern California, home to Richard Nixon and Ronald
Reagan, was traditionally more laissez faire than liberal Northern
California, ultimately allowing itself to be inundated by poorly
educated illegal aliens, wrecking the public schools. In contrast,
environmentalist--and thus expensive--Northern California attracted a
variety of skilled immigrants. Eventually, many Los Angeles
Republicans either fled inland or decided that those San Francisco
Democrats had the right idea all along.
Now illegal immigrants are flocking to other pro-growth red states,
such as North Carolina and Georgia, and may eventually turn those
states Democratic due both to the Democratic-voting immigrants' very
high birthrates and to a California-style drift toward
environmentalism among its white voters as laissez faire proves
inadequate to keep out illegal aliens.
Nobody noticed that the famous blue-red gap was a white baby gap
because the subject of white fertility is considered disreputable. But
I believe the truth is better for us than ignorance, lies, or wishful
thinking. At least, it's certainly more interesting.
Steve Sailer is TAC's film critic. He also writes for VDARE.com and
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