[Paleopsych] Steve Sailer: Baby Gap: How birthrates color the electoral map

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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
    vice versa.

    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
    0.6 "high."

    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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