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Affordable family formation

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Here are excerpts from a review I published in in 2003 of a book written by Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and her daughter:

Huge numbers of mothers entered the labor force over the last few decades. And the inflation-adjusted price of food, clothing, appliances, electronics etc. dropped sharply. So how come we don’t feel like we’ve got a lot more discretionary income than our single-income parents had? 

A wise and readable new public policy book called The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke provides a simple answer: 

We don’t have more discretionary income than our single-income parents had. 

The mother and daughter team of Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren and former McKinsey consultant Amelia Warren Tyagi explain: “The average two-income family earns far more today than did the single-breadwinner family of a generation ago. And yet, once they have paid the mortgage, the car payments, the taxes, the health insurance, and the day-care bills, today’s dual-income families have less discretionary—and less money to put away for a rainy day—than the single-income family of a generation ago.” 

The two authors note: “The brunt of the price increases has fallen on families with children. Data from the Federal Reserve show that the median home value for the average childless individual increased by 23 percent between 1983 and 1998 … (adjusted for inflation). For married couples with children, however, housing prices shot up 79 percent—more than three times faster.” 

For example, in August, the median price of a single-family home in pleasant, suburban Ventura County west of Los Angeles was $480,000. 

Many economists shrug that this vast rise in prices increases Americans’ net worth. “But that net worth isn’t worth anything,” the two women point out, “unless a family plans to sell its home and live in a cave, because the next house the family buys would carry a similarly outrageous price tag.” 

… The biggest single cause of this growing financial stress on middle-income parents: the breakdown of much of the public education system. As Warren and Tyagi note, “Even as millions of mothers marched into the workforce, savings declined, and not, as we will show, because families were frittering away their paychecks on toys for themselves or their children. Instead, families were swept up in a bidding war, competing furiously with one another for their most important possession: a house in a decent school district… ” …

But what causes “bad schools”? 

Here the authors play it coy. I can hardly blame them. Almost everybody uses “bad schools” as a euphemism. Who wants to become a pariah for telling the truth?   

And for a book about the economics and law of personal bankruptcy, The Two-Income Trap is full of well-crafted zingers. I came away just plain liking these two ladies and their down-to-earth approach based on both formal data and the realities of daily life. 

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The Obama 2012 campaign has put up a “Life of Julia” website that explains how the Obama Administration would provide cradle to grave welfare state benefits for an apparently never-married single mother named Julia, who would be financially crazy to vote Republican. 

It’s hard to disagree with Obama’s logic, and indeed, being a single woman appears to be an extremely strong causal driver of voting Democratic in Presidential elections. In contrast, little changes a woman’s mind about how to vote more than marriage. 

Hence, it would make sense for the GOP to research the reasons for voters not getting married and propose reforms to make family formation more affordable. In other words, logically, it’s in the Republican Party’s self-interest to think about how to make American citizens happy and how to encourage them to grow more happy American citizens of their own.

Obviously, when phrased that way, you can understand why the GOP Brain Trust has paid no attention whatsoever to this question since I first brought it up seven years ago. It’s just crazy talk!

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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With the advent of Texas governor Rick Perry in the GOP Presidential race, there has been a lot of talk about the large number of jobs created in Texas v. the rest of the country. Much of the liberal critique of Perry (Paul KrugmanEzra Klein, Matthew Yglesias) is finally reflecting my 2005 analysis of Texas v. California, The Dirt Gap. Hey, it doesn’t have much to do with Perry, it has to do with there being a lot of land in Texas, and not much environmental regulation, so housing prices are cheap!
A couple of additional Texas themes of mine that may become conventional wisdom in, oh, a half dozen years are:
- The bad news for Democrats from the Texas experiment is that it suggests that driving down the skill level of the population through mass immigration means that the only affordable, feasible kind of government in a future heavily mestizo America is a low tax – low spend – low regulation – conservative values Texas-style Republicanism.
- The bad news for Republicans out of Texas is that just such policies attract in so many immigrants and encourage so much fertility among immigrants that the Republicans will eventually get swamped demographically.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The Guardian takes time out from whooping the anti-Murdoch brouhaha to address today’s most pressing issue:

Beckhams a ‘bad example’ for families 

With a fourth child, the couple have joined the ranks of the irresponsible, population experts say 

David and Victoria Beckham may have been overjoyed to welcome their new daughter, Harper Seven, last week but, according to a growing group of campaigners, the birth of their fourth child make the couple bad role models and environmentally irresponsible. 

Background for non-Brits: David Beckham was the most famous soccer player of a decade ago. Victoria Beckham was Posh Spice in the Spice Girls. In celebrity wattage, they are roughly the British equivalent of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (although, in contrast, they are married).

In an increasingly chavified England, they are the chief exemplars of the old English idea that celebrities should dress elegantly and often rather formally. (I would guess, off the top of my head, that Mrs. Beckham, who had previously given her husband three sons, wanted to keep having children until she had a little daughter to play dress up with, a common maternal desire.) Beckham’s jersey number is 7, hence the middle name.

They appear to be healthy, good-looking, extremely rich, focused (Beckham, for instance is a good but not great natural athlete — instead, through practice, he made himself the best in the world at bending free kicks [Bend It Like Beckham], a skill rather like a top golfer’s), relatively tasteful (by the standards of footballers and pop stars), and have managed to live in the center of the British tabloid maelstrom for quite a few years with only a moderate number of scandals and without melting down under the stress.

In other words, they are likely to have, on average, pretty good genes. The fact that they have been making copies of those genes does not strike me as an occasion for fear and loathing.

As the world’s population is due to hit seven billion at some point in the next few days, there is an increasing call for the UK to open a public debate about how many children people have. 

Now the Green MP, Caroline Lucas, has joined other leading environmentalists in calling for the smashing of what TV zoologist Sir David Attenborough has called the “absurd taboo” in discussing family size in the UK. 

Lucas said: “We need to have a far greater public debate about population, whether it focuses on improving family planning or reducing global inequality – and looking again at how we address the strain on our natural resources. The absence of an open and honest discussion about this issue means most people don’t give much thought to the scale of global population growth in recent years. In 1930, just one or two generations ago, the world’s population stood at around two billion. Today it is around seven billion, and by 2050 it is projected to rise by a third to 9 billion. 

“We live as if we have three planets instead of just one. It is interesting that public figures, environmental groups and NGOs in general have tended to steer away from population to the extent that it’s become a taboo issue. The horrific consequences of China’s one-child policy and of other draconian efforts to regulate procreation have, for many, rendered discussion of the subject completely unpalatable. Yet as long as an issue remains a taboo subject where no one talks about it, then there’s very little chance of finding the solutions we need.”

I don’t think the taboo in recent years on discussing population growth has much of anything to do with China and has everything to do with whose populations are growing: i.e., people who don’t look like the Beckhams. Recall, for example, in all the write-ups about Haiti after the 2010 earthquake how almost everybody, except Jared Diamond and myself, danced around the Haitian population growth problem. Similarly, the U.N. recently issue population projections saying that the population of Nigeria would be over 700 million by the end of the century. You’ll notice the deafening silence over that.

It is a view that is being pushed by the UK-based Optimum Population Trust, whose chief executive, Simon Ross, is calling for the government to tackle the UK’s high rates of accidental pregnancy and to give child benefits and tax credits only for the first two children.

Because the Beckhams would clearly have had fewer children without the tax breaks.

“That would send a clear signal that the government will support sustainable families, but after that you are on your own,” he said. “There is a big issue there, family planning is cheap, yet many people don’t use it properly and accidental pregnancy rates are very high. We need to change the incentives to make the environmental case that one or two children are fine but three or four are just being selfish. 

“The Beckhams, and others like London mayor Boris Johnson, are very bad role models with their large families. There’s no point in people trying to reduce their carbon emissions and then increasing them 100% by having another child,” he said. “England is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and the fastest-growing in population terms in Europe. In 15 years we’ll have an extra 10 million people here.”

And that is the fault of the Beckhams and the Johnsons? In reality, the cause of Britain’s population growth is the I-word that is missing from this article. When poor people immigrate from a poor country to a rich country, one of two things, basically, can happen. Either they assimilate economically, and thus emit more carbon, or they fail to assimilate economically.

Attenborough has attacked the last two UN climate summits in Cancún and Copenhagen for ducking the population issue. Giving the President’s Lecture at the Royal Society of Arts in March, he made a passionate speech about how the world’s baby-making was damaging the planet and called for every country to have a population policy. “The sooner we stabilise our numbers the sooner we stop running up the down escalator,” he said. 

“Fifty years ago there were about 3 billion people on Earth. Now there are almost 7 billion – almost double – and every one of them needing space. There cannot be more people on this Earth than can be fed.” 

The population debate has often been overshadowed by what is seen as the disastrous and often inhumane experiment by China, with its notorious one-child policy, and with sensitivity about being seen to criticise birthrates in underdeveloped countries. But campaigners point to the fact that it is the populations of the developed world who use the vast majority of the world’s resources.

Lucas said the Green party was not afraid to raise the subject because it was “fundamental” to wellbeing. “The lesson to be learned from China is surely that efforts to curb population growth in a way that restricts individual liberty are dangerous and come at huge human cost,” she said. “Policies that focus on increasing access to birth control for all who want it, reducing poverty and inequality, improving food security and tackling environmental degradation are where we should be focusing our attention.

I suspect the Beckhams have adequate access to birth control. In 2010, I called for one of the 10,000 foreign non-governmental charitable organizations operating in Haiti to announce a policy of making Depo-Provera contraceptive shots available for free to any Haitian woman who so requests.

This suggestion did not sweep the media.

Now, I realize that one part of the underlying motivation for this kind of article is driven by concern over the high population growth rates in black Africa and in the more backward parts of the Muslim, Hindu, and Latin worlds. The reasoning at The Guardian might be something like: “We need to do something to persuade people in villages in the hinterland of the Congo to have fewer children, but we can’t actually mention the real problem, because we’d be roasted alive as racists, so what we’ll do is pick out some rich white family and denounce them, and eventually the message will seep through to villages in the hinterland of the Congo. It’s a simple, can’t-fail plan!”

Or, I may be giving all too much credit to Guardians for intelligence, and they are simply motivated by the standard Who? Whom? emotions.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The roots of my theory of Affordable Family Formation influencing which states are blue and which are red in elections goes back to before the 2000 election, but it emerged in mature form in the weeks and months following the 2004 election. (Here’s my 12/20/2004 American Conservative article Baby Gap and my subsequent 12/12/2004 VDARE article extending the correlation from fertility to years married. Here’s a brief summary in 2005, and a fuller treatment in 2008.
Among academics, Andrew Gelman of Columbia has shown some kind interest in my theory. Now a Poli Sci Ph.D. candidate at the U. of Houston has tested my theory and published a paper on it. While I looked at state level voting for 2000 and 2004, George Hawley looked at county level voting in 2000 and Census data from 2000. This gives him a much larger sample size. The correlations I found at the state level in 2000 and 2004 were just ridiculously high, so looking at a bigger sample size of county data gives a broader perspective.

From Party Politics:
George Hawley
University of Houston


This article tests the hypothesis that differences in the housing market can partially explain why some American counties are strongly Republican and others strongly Democratic, and that this phenomenon can be largely attributed to the relationship between home values and marriage rates within counties. Specifically, I test the hypothesis that, in the 2000 election, George W. Bush did comparatively better in counties with relatively affordable single-family homes, even when controlling for other economic, demographic and regional variables. Using county-level data, I test this hypothesis using spatial-lag regression models, and provide further evidence using individual-level survey data. My results indicate a statistically significant relationship between Bush’s percentage of the vote at the county level and the median value of owner-occupied homes, and that at least part of this is explained by the relationship between home values and marriage rates among young women.

Two important developments in American politics in recent decades involve political sorting. In a process that began in the 1970s, political conservatives and liberals have, for the most part, joined the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively, which, many scholars argue, subsequently led to increasing ideological homogeneity within the parties and higher levels of partisan polarization. The other major sort is geographic in  nature. Many regions of the country have become, to a significant extent, politically homogeneous, with an increasing number of counties consistently giving landslide victories to presidential candidates of one major political party or the other. The first major political sort – which led most individuals to align with the ‘correct’ political party based on their ideological inclinations – has been well examined and explained. The latter political sort has also been well described. However, up to this point, relatively little scholarship has examined the causal mechanism driving the geographic sorting of the population by partisan affiliation. Why do some regions prove a magnet for Democrats, and some draw increasing numbers of Republicans? …
Specifically, I test the hypothesis that relatively affordable housing was associated with more support for George W. Bush in the 2000 election at the county level. Although the relationship between home-ownership and partisanship has been examined previously (Blum and Kingston, 1984; Verberg, 2000), most such studies consider home-ownership primarily as it relates to economic well-being or incorporation into the community. I offer an alternative hypothesis. I hypothesize that home affordability at the aggregate level is relevant to political outcomes even when controlling for economic variables such as median income and poverty rates. I argue that home affordability is relevant to politics largely because of its relationship with marriage rates within geographic units, which subsequently influences political outcomes because of the partisan marriage gap.
Put less abstractly, I suggest that married couples are more likely than single individuals to want to own their own home. However, there are some areas where home-ownership is prohibitively expensive, especially for younger Americans. If young couples living in those high-housing-cost communities want to own their own house, they have no choice but to move. Thus, I anticipate that the marriage rates within a county can be at least partially explained by the average housing costs within that county. Because, as the political science literature suggests, married voters are more likely to vote Republican than non-married voters, this trend leads some counties to become increasingly Republican, and others increasingly Democratic. …
The possible relationship between home affordability and aggregate voting trends has largely been ignored up until now by the political science literature, though the topic has been considered by the political journalist Steven Sailer (2008). Sailer hypothesized that ‘affordable family formation’ – which he argued was closely related to housing costs – was a key difference between majority-Republican states and majority-Democrat states. Sailer went on to conclude that the relative affordability of housing accounted for the differing typical political behaviour within various large cities. Sailer suggested that the relative costliness of owning a home in America’s large coastal cities, such as Los Angeles, led to later family formation, which partially explained the greater support for Democratic politicians in those cities and regions. In contrast, inland American cities like Dallas are able to expand outward all-but indefinitely, which keeps housing costs low and subsequently such cities more attractive to young families. …
This article suggests that the geographical sorting of the United States along partisan lines results, at least in part, from differences in housing markets. Specifically, these results indicate that, in the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush typically received a smaller share of the vote in counties where home values significantly outpaced incomes, and that this was, to a meaningful extent, due to the relationship between home affordability and marriage rates.
Hawley could likely replicate this finding for 2004, an election that was virtually identical to 2000, just shifted a few points in Bush’s direction. 2008 was not as similar, however, in part because of different turnout rates brought about by Obama’s candidacy. 2010 looked a lot like 2004, although there are met
hodological problems with dealing with midterm elections.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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At VDARE, I review the new E-book by Tyler Cowen, The Great Stagnation:
The economist offers three main reasons for this stagnation, all three of which I’ve been discussing for years. Cowen sums them up in a single concept:

“All of these problems have a single, little noticed root cause: We have been living off low-hanging fruit for at least 300 years. Yet during the last forty years, that low-hanging fruit started disappearing, and we started pretending it was still there.”

According to Cowen, America benefited in the past from three main kinds of “low-hanging fruit:”
* “Free land”
* “Technological breakthroughs”      
* “Smart, uneducated kids”

Sound familiar?

Read the whole thing there.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The conclusion of a New York Times article “Riches May Not Help Papua New Guinea” on the influx of money into the New Guinea highlands from an Exxon natural gas pipeline:

Earlier, he had held up a warning: a local village chief who had squandered a $120,000 windfall.

A short drive away, Hamon Matipe, the septuagenarian chief of Kili, confirmed that he had received that sum four months earlier. In details corroborated by the local authorities, Mr. Matipe explained that the provincial government had paid him for village land alongside the Southern Highlands’ one major road, where the government planned to build a police barracks.

His face adorned with red and white paint, a pair of industrial safety glasses perched incongruously on a head ornament from which large leaves stuck out, Mr. Matipe said he had given most of the money to his 10 wives. But he had used about $20,000 to buy 48 pigs, which he used as a dowry to obtain a 15-year-old bride from a faraway village, paying well above the going rate of 30 pigs. He and some 30 village men then celebrated by buying 15 cases of beer, costing about $800.

“All the money is now gone,” Mr. Matipe said. “But I’m very happy about the company, ExxonMobil. Before, I had nothing. But because of the money, I was able to buy pigs and get married again.”

Here’s a video of part of the amazing 1983 documentary First Contact with footage of the arrival of Australian explorers in the highlands of New Guinea around 1930. When the first airplane flew over the central spine of New Guinea, the pilot was amazed to discover that there wasn’t just one mountain range, but two parallel ones with a fertile valley between them, home to about a million agriculturalists, previously unknown to the rest of the world.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Catching up on things I should have noted earlier, here’s a fine article on demographics and affordable family formation by Jonathan V. Last in The Weekly Standard. (The one suggestion I’d make is that I think Last understates the Hispanic Total Fertility Rate: 2.3 is more like the American-born Hispanic TFR, not the total Hispanic TFR.)
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From my column, which reviews the new book by the Israeli-American think tank known as the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute:

As a long-time admirer of Israel, I’ve come to envy especially the freedom of discussion that Israeli culture permits on fundamental questions of demographics.

Consider, for example, the new book 2030: Alternative Futures for the Jewish People [5 megabyte  PDF], which makes for eye-opening reading for anyone lulled by the pabulum of the American press. … An intellectually serious effort, 2030 can serve as a template for all those thinking about improving the demographic prospects of their own peoples or parties.

For example, GOP leaders could read it and consider how its framework of analysis and its policy recommendations could be adapted to the task of growing more Republicans.

Founded in 2002, the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute has always been chaired by prominent Jewish-American diplomats. Its 2030 report was begun under Dennis Ross, chief U.S. negotiator at Bill Clinton’s failed Camp David 2 peace talks in 2000 between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Ross left JPPPI in 2009 to run the Obama Administration’s Iran policy. …

Despite this American participation, the JPPPI is an offshoot of the Israeli government’s immigration arm, the Jewish Agency for Israel. (The  JPPPI’s #2 man is a former boss of Israeli military intelligence). It makes an annual presentation to the Israeli cabinet. And, because the JPPPI’s publications are not intended for non-Jewish audiences—this book has not, so far as I know, previously been reviewed in America outside the Jewish press—it suffers less from the timidity that emasculates intellectual discourse in America.

For example, the JPPPI’s 2030 observes:

“World Jewry today is at a historical zenith of absolute wealth creation. … one can say that Jewish wealth is higher than almost any other ethnic group worldwide.”

That’s not the kind of thing you read in the U.S. press every day…

It’s also informative to discover that the JPPPI views anti-Semitism at present “as a moral problem and an irritant, but not having any serious consequences.” …

The 2030 project strives to identify the middle ground between the ephemeral and the permanent.

The JPPPI methodology is to boil the future down to merely A) internal factors (what it calls “Jewish Momentum” — “quantity, quality, power, structures and leadership”) and B) external factors: “the well-worn notion of ‘good for the Jews or bad for the Jews.’”

This generates four alternative futures: “Thriving,” “Drifting,” “Defending,” and “Nightmare.” The think tank doesn’t try to predict which one will happen, but it does outline the various mechanisms pushing the global Jewish People in each direction.

If in 2030, Jews are self-confidently ethnocentric (have high Jewish Momentum) and the rest of the world loves them, then, according to the JPPPI, the Jewish People will be “Thriving”.

The opposite quadrant is called “Nightmare”—where Jews are both unpopular with outsiders and highly assimilated. Currently, Iran is the best (or worst) example of this.

The JPPPI classifies the American Jewish community as currently “Thriving” due to an extremely positive external climate for Jews in America and moderately high internal Jewish Momentum.

It worries, though, that Jews are so popular with other Americans that Jewish cohesiveness will be sapped over the next 20 years. A high rate of intermarriage could drive the American Jewish community into the Drifting quadrant, where “Demographic shifts including accelerated assimilation of the Jewish community in the US, and its decline relative to other groups in the US leads to decline in its political power.” …

The opposite of “Drifting” is “Defending”—where Jews are besieged by anti-Semites, yet internally strong as a community. The JPPPI cites France, where Muslim immigration has led to pogrom-like incidents, as currently the closest to this alternative future.

The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute seems to prefer “Defending” to “Drifting”:

“While the Drifting future might be very pleasant and positive for Jews as individuals, it reflects an overall decline of the Jewish People as a whole. … a Defending alternative future demonstrates that even under strenuous external conditions, the Jewish People could become stronger.”

My review goes on to consider the demographic policy proposals of the JPPPI, which are analogous to my own for Republicans. Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below. 

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Time reports:

Hekmati’s experience is typical of young Iranians, who are finding themselves increasingly priced out of the marriage market. During the tenure of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, real estate prices have soared across the country, but especially in Tehran, where they have risen as much as 150%. Economists have blamed the spike on Ahmadinejad’s disastrous economic policies. The President flooded the economy with capital through a loan scheme, cut interest rates 2% and embarked on huge state construction projects that drove up the price of building materials. Those changes prompted many investors to move out of the stock market and the banking system and into real estate, which was considered a safer bet. Apartment prices in the capital more than doubled between 2006 and 2008. (,29307,1874914,00.html" href="*,29307,1874914,00.html">See pictures of health care in Iran.)

The real estate boom was a disaster for middle-income Iranians, particularly young men seeking marriage partners. And many of those who have married and moved in with in-laws are finding that inflation is eating away at their savings, meaning it will take years, rather than months, to get their own place. The resulting strains are breaking up existing marriages – this past winter, local media reported that a leading cause of Iran’s high divorce rate is the husband’s inability to establish an independent household. Many others are concluding that marriage is best avoided altogether. (,28804,1874579_1874596,00.html" href="*,28804,1874579_1874596,00.html">See the Top 10 Ahmadinejad-isms.)

Ahmadinejad’s government response to the crisis included a plan, unveiled in November 2008 by the National Youth Organization, called “semi-independent marriage.” It proposed that young people who cannot afford to marry and move into their own place legally marry but continue living apart in their parents’ homes. The announcement prompted swift outrage. Online news sites ran stories in which women angrily denounced the scheme, arguing that it afforded men a legal and pious route to easy sex while offering women nothing by way of security or social respect. The government hastily dropped the plan.

As Iranians head to the polls on Friday, Ahmadinejad faces the prospect that the very same broad discontent with the economy that propelled him to victory in 2005 could now help unseat him. Samira, a 27-year-old who works in advertising, recently became engaged and is among the millions of young Iranians who are eyeing the candidates through the lens of their own marital concerns. “Ahmadinejad promised he would bring housing prices down, but that didn’t happen at all,” she says. If left to their own salaries, she explains, she and her fiancÉ will never be able to afford their own place. That’s a key reason they’re voting for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the leading reformist candidate, who has made the economy the center of his platform. Like many young Iranians, they hope a new President will make marriage a possibility once more.

It’s striking how obvious the logic of what I call Affordable Family Formation is to Iranians, while the vast majority of social analysts in the U.S. remain oblivious to the obvious.

Different social norms mask the situation somewhat in the U.S. Here, high housing prices tend to discourage child-bearing merely among the prudent but not among the imprudent (as satirized in the opening scene of “Idiocracy.”) As I reported in “From 2005 to 2007, the number of babies born in the United States to married women declined 0.3 percent. In contrast, the number born to unmarried women grew 12.3 percent.”

Still, you’d have to say (at least from this one example) that political discourse in America compared to Iran, whether due to our country’s well-padded safety margins or due to greater indoctrination by the media, is less in touch with the basic logic of human existence.

P.S. Obviousl

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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On Saturday, my 92-year-old father and I went to a relative’s wedding at a hotel named Shutters on the Beach at 1 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica. It was about 95 degrees in the San Fernando Valley, but it was only 75 as we drove down Pico. The traffic kept getting worse and worse as I approached the beach, the coolest place in Southern California. We finally arrived, paid $14 to park, and had a very nice time.

Not surprisingly, land adjoining the beach in Santa Monica is so expensive that young couples can only afford to hold their wedding receptions there, not to a raise a family there. Indeed, Santa Monica as whole, with its exquisite weather, is unaffordable by all but the wealthiest young families. There just isn’t a large supply of land when you start at 1 Pico Blvd., you can only drive in directions covering 180 degrees. The other 180 degrees are underneath the Pacific Ocean.

Also, as my theory of Affordable Family Formation would predict, Santa Monica is famously liberal — e.g., the joke about it being the People’s Republic of Santa Monica. Jane Fonda’s ex-husband Tom Hayden represented the Santa Monica area in the state legislature for 18 years. Republican “family values” campaign themes don’t go over big in Santa Monica. The people who raise kids in Santa Monica can afford to insulate them with private schools, tutors, and all the rest. They don’t need politicians’ help in making it a little easier to raise their kids.

Another famous example of the interrelationship between coastlines, density, and liberalism is found within the city of Chicago. In the city, population density increases exponentially as you approach the lakefront. In time-honored Chicago political jargon, the voters who live in that narrow strip of high-rises are known as “Lakefront Liberals.”

I might add, however, that America’s Gulf Coast is largely an exception to the pattern of liberalism increasing as you approach the coasts, which works well for the Pacific, the Great Lakes, and much of the Atlantic.

I think the difference is that the Gulf Coast doesn’t have as many major urban areas set directly on the ocean, perhaps due to danger from hurricanes. For example, Galveston, a classic seafront city, was obliterated by a hurricane in 1900, killing 6,000. So, the population center of the Texas coastal region moved 45 miles inland (and 45 crucial feet above sea level) to Houston. So, Houston can expand 45 miles in any direction before its exurbs run into saltwater. Hence, Houston has low housing prices and conservative voters.

Also, before air conditioning, the climate was so deplorable for four months of the year along the Gulf Coast that it discouraged urbanization. (British government employees once got the same tropical hardship pay for manning the British consulate in Houston as they did for working in Lagos, Nigeria.)

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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I’m participating this week in an online discussion at the Talking Points Memo Cafe Book Club on political scientist (and statistics wizard) Andrew Gelman’s 2008 book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.

You can read my first contribution here. Here’s an excerpt from mine:

As a little thought experiment, imagine two sisters who are completely typical except that they are identical twins: with the same nature and nurture. They graduate from college together with degrees in business administration, but then they have to split up for the first time in their lives because one twin gets a job in downtown San Francisco while the other gets a job in downtown Dallas.

Ten years later, when they are 32, which twin is more likely to be a home-owning, married, stay-at-home mom?

Common sense and Census statistics suggest that the twin who got the job in Dallas is likely to take a more conservatively-inclined path through life. Middle class Americans today tend to get married when they are ready to buy a home and have children.

That houses are so much more affordable in the Dallas metropolitan area than in the San Francisco Bay region is one reason why non-Hispanic white women in Texas averaged 15.2 years of marriage between ages 18 and 44 in the 2000 Census, compared to 12.5 years for their counterparts in California.

And why is housing so much cheaper around Dallas than around San Francisco? There are many reasons, but a fundamental one is topographic: San Francisco is surrounded by saltwater and mountains, while Dallas is surrounded by flat dirt. There is simply a greater supply of land around an inland city than around a coastal city, so, ceteris paribus, the former’s homes will be cheaper.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Here’s an excerpt in which I uncharacteristically show some sympathy for Karl Rove and George Bush from my new column:

It’s important to fully understand why the lessons the two Texans, Rove and Bush, learned in their home state didn’t apply in other heavily Hispanic states.

So far, the mortgage meltdown hasn’t been as bad in Texas as in the four Sand States” (as they were known on Wall Street during the Bubble): California, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida. These are home to half of the foreclosures and a large majority of the defaulted mortgage money.

Partly this is due to the Oil Bubble, which now appears to be ending. Oil prices over $100 per barrel kept the Texas economy strong in 2008, allowing debtors to avoid foreclosure.

Also, the enormous amount of land and the lack of environmental restrictions on home development in Texas means that when the federal government stimulates demand, the supply of housing increases quickly as well, keeping housing prices reasonable.

Finally, what Rove and Bush missed was how different was Texas’s economic and immigration history over the last three decades relative to the seemingly similar Sand States. Due to OPEC’s oil price increases in the 1970s, Texas experienced a huge construction boom thirty years ago. That mostly attracted construction workers from the rest of the U.S. rather than from Mexico, because Mexico was simultaneously experiencing its own oil boom following massive new discoveries.

When oil prices collapsed in 1982, the economies of Texas and Mexico slumped simultaneously. The big wave of post-1982 unemployed illegal aliens therefore headed for California rather than for Texas.

That’s why San Antonio had “surprisingly low levels” of immigration from 1965 to 2000, according to the important new book quantitatively comparing Mexican-Americans in San Antonio and Los Angeles in 1965 and 2000, Generations of Exclusion, by sociologists associated with the UCLA Chicano Studies Program.

The 2000 Census found that California’s foreign-born population (26 percent of all residents) was almost twice as large as Texas’s (14 percent).

As Texans, Rove and Bush apparently just couldn’t understand the quantity and quality of the immigration situation in the other heavily Hispanic states. In 2000, Texas had a large but fairly well-rooted, stable, and assimilated Mexican-American population that had a reasonable potential to make enough money in resource-extraction or other blue-collar jobs to afford to buy Texas’s cheap houses.

In sharp contrast, California had a huge and mostly new, ill-educated, and unassimilated Mexican-American population that didn’t have even a chance of making enough money in Silicon Valley or Hollywood to afford California’s already expensive houses.

And Nevada, Arizona, and Florida were more like California than they were like Texas. [More]

So, who are the bad guys here: Texans or Californians? That’s what people always want to know: who’s the bad guy and who is the good guy?

The point is that our country’s two biggest states are just very different, and much of that has its roots in their very different terrain.

For example, everybody in California would prefer to live near the Pacific because the climate and scenery are so nice. In contrast, in Texas (and the other Gulf of Mexico coastal states), the threat of hurricanes means people tend to prefer to live inland. Galveston used to be the dominant port of Texas’s coast, until the hurricane of 1900 drowned 6000 people, after which Houston (45 miles inland and 45 feet above sea level) became the main metropolis. So, Affordable Family Formation works better in Texas than in California.

This doesn’t make Texans or Californians good or evil, it just makes them different. And because the two states between them account for 60 million people, it’s crucial that Americans get a better grip on the differences between the two states.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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My wife raises an interesting point that I’ve never heard anyone discuss. Many of the single women of a certain age who are still actively in the husband-seeking market spend a fortune on themselves to look good and be in the right (i.e., expensive) places to meet Mr. Right. Thus, an awful lot of them have a lot of debt, especially credit card debt, which they keep rolling over to the tune of many thousands of dollars in interest each year.

The question is: when she finally meets a suitable guy, does her debt tend to discourage the fellow from popping the question? I mean, if a couple has gotten pretty serious, but then he finds out she has $40,000 in credit card debt, which she’s paying $5500 per year of interest on, does the idea of a joint checking account start sounding kind of expensive? Especially, if they’re thinking about having kids and he knows she’s going to have to de-emphasize her career for awhile. If she can’t pay off her credit cards now while she’s working full time, she’s not going to pay them off either when she downshifts her career to raise kids. So, marriage is going to cost him $40,000 right off the bat that he hadn’t thought about before.

That can kind of put the damper on romantic impulsivity.

This trend is the opposite of the European tradition of the dowry, in which the bride’s family gives the groom money in return for a lifetime of his work supporting their daughter. (Here in America, we have a quasi-dowry system in which the bride’s parents pay the for the wedding reception and the guests give the couple gifts equal to about their share of the cost of the reception. Thus, when we got married, we received gifts roughly equal to the wedding reception’s cost to my in-laws, which was a nice little haul — maybe four or five months of my after tax salary.)

In contrast, this emerging system in which two thirtysomethings are interested in getting married, but the potential bride is heavily in debt, so her would-be husband is likely to end up on the hook for it, is more like the African “bride price” system in which the groom pays the bride’s father (or maternal uncle in some societies) fifteen head of cattle (or whatever) for the woman. The groom pays in Africa because he’s going to get a lifetime of hard work hoeing the fields out of his wife. (According to Borat, in Kazakhstan, the going price for a bride is 15 gallons of insecticide.)

But, certainly, the African system is less conducive to monogamy, paternal investment in children, and other socially beneficial things than the European dowry system.

So, maybe this explains some of the ever-increasing illegitimacy rate in America?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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I have to confess that I wasn’t paying that much attention to who would win the election. What I was really looking forward to was the distribution of votes within states. Based on the extremely similar results in 2000 and 2004, I had invented a novel and ambitious theory explaining why American states vote in differing proportions for Republican or Democratic candidates.

My Affordable Family Formation theory isn’t about who wins nationally, it’s about how, given a particular national level of support, which states will be solid blue (Democrat), which ones purple (mixed), and which ones solid red (Republican).

Of course, George W. Bush ran in both 2000 and 2004, so maybe he was the reason my theory worked so well in both elections. Thus, 2008, with its quite different candidates, was a good test. Or maybe the Housing Bubble and its subsequent popping would have changed results dramatically.

Before getting to the results, let me review my AFF theory. It holds that what paints the electoral map red and blue is “affordable family formation” was validated once again. Taking a quick and dirty look at McCain’s and Obama’s shares in each state (plus DC) with 92% of the national precincts reporting, the same two demographic variables that drove the results in 2000 and 2004 showed startlingly high correlations once again.

My basic theory is that Democrats do best in states with metropolitan areas where land for homes is scarce because they are hedged in by oceans or Great Lakes; while Republicans do best in inland areas where homebuyers can look around for homes in a 360 degree radius around job sites. I call this the Dirt Gap: Republicans are found more in areas with more dirt and less water.

This means that homes in inland areas tend to be cheaper because the supply of land within a certain commuting time is greater. In turn, cheaper homes mean that non-Hispanic whites tend to marry earlier and have more children, which means they attract family oriented people and their cultures tend to be more family-oriented, making Republican family values appeals more appealing there. In contrast, “Living by the Water,” which is #51 on the Stuff White People Like website, correlates with Stuff White People Like political views. (You can read about Affordable Family Formation in detail with graphs here.)

Take a look at the Average Years Married between ages 18 and 44 among non-Hispanic white women in the 2000 Census. That’s a statistic I invented to be the marital analog of the well-known total fertility rate measure (which estimates from the latest available year’s birth behavior how many children a woman will have in her lifetime). Likewise, Average Years Married estimates how many years out of the 27 between 18 through 44 will a woman be married. The Average Years Married for non-Hispanic white women does a remarkably good job of predicting McCain’s (or Obama’s) share of the total vote across all races in the states.

Thus, McCain carried 19 of the top 20 states on Average Years Married among non-Hispanic whites, while Obama carried 18 of the 19 lowest states. The correlation coefficient was r=0.88, on a scale where social scientists usually call r=0.2 “low correlation,” r=0.4 “moderate correlation,” and r=0.6 “high correlation.” So, in the social sciences, r=0.88 would have to be something like “extremely high correlation.” This is, however, down from the astonishing 0.91 level seen in 2004, but, keep in mind, the demographic data I’m using is now 8.5 years old. (It was collected on April 1, 2000 for the last Census.)

Looking at the 2002 Total Fertility Rate among non-Hispanic Whites, Obama carried the bottom 15 states, while McCain carried 14 of the top 15. The correlation coefficient was r=0.82. The demographic data is now 6 years old. (In 2004, when the demographic data was fresher, it was 0.86.)

Keep in mind that this is based on incomplete 2008 voting results with 8% of the precincts and who knows how many of the mail-in ballots missing, so the correlations will likely change.

By the way, this explains much of the Sarah Palin Hysteria: with her five children, she elicits the SWPL whites’ secret dread that they are being outbred by the non-SWPL whites.

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Here’s the opening of the Sarah Palin article I wrote last week for the upcoming issue of The American Conservative:

Why, in one uproarious week of American politicking that not even H.L. Mencken would have expected, has the once unknown Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, outraged roughly one-half of the country and overjoyed the other half?

What intrigues people about elections aren’t the platform planks. Deep down, political contests are about picking symbolic champions. Just as Barack Obama, recently of the Illinois legislature, has arationally excited tens of millions by his emphasis on his bloodlines, by his implication that national racial reconciliation is “in my DNA,” the overstuffed life story of the caribou huntress and mother of five (and soon to be grandmother at age 44) embodies the oldest boast Americans have made about their homeland: the fecundity of the frontier.

Compared to Obama’s much-lauded but tedious life, cautiously plotted in countless Chicago backrooms, the Alaskan-sized lustiness of Gov. Palin’s full-throttle biography comes as a delight. The way the only-in-Alaska factoids about her keep piling up, like in an Old West tall tale, always leaves me laughing.

Consider, for example, Palin’s husband Todd. What kind of man could be married to a woman so hormonally exuberant, with her dual archetypes straight out of a Camille Paglia reverie: half Alaskan Amazon, half Venus of Willendorf? Exactly the kind of man you’d expect: he works as both a North Shore oilfield roughneck and a salmon fisherman. He’s also won the state’s snowmobile championship, the 2,000 mile Tesoro Iron Dog race, four times, but only finished fourth this year because he had to ride the last 400 miles with a broken arm after being thrown 70 feet. Did I mention he’s part Eskimo?

I won’t give away the rest of my article, but veteran readers can guess how this all ties together with many of my long-time obsessions such as Affordable Family Formation. I’m always accused of having weird obsessions, but they seem to eventually turn out to be everybody else’s weird obsessions, too.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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A couple of writers for Slate get it (almost) about how the Palins are the exemplars of my theory of Affordable Family Formation:

Working-Class Hero: How the Palins’ enviable blue-collar lifestyle could help the McCain campaign.
By Adriaan Lanni and Wesley Kelman

But the pregnancy (which could help swing voters identify with Palin) threatens to obscure a seductive and misleading subtext in Palin’s biography that may play a key role in the election: the way she embodies the hope of a blue-collar life without economic insecurity.

Actually, the 18-year-old fiance looks quite capable of doing a man’s work and earning a man’s pay in the Alaskan economy. I have no idea if he, personally, will turn out to be a decent provider, but he’s got a strong back in a place where that’s worth something.

Palin’s background reminded us of an Alaskan we met several years ago. We had just moved to Anchorage for a temporary job in the state court system and struck up an illuminating conversation with a bricklayer while on a hike outside town. He made a surprising amount of money—he had moved to Alaska because its wages were so high. He also had enviable stretches of leisure: He worked long shifts during the short construction season, then spent all fall and winter riding his “snowmachine” (Alaskan for snowmobile), panning for gold—yes, people still do that there—and hunting and fishing. He exuded optimism; his life was good and he knew it, and there was no resentment of yuppies like us.

Palin’s family, warts and all, has some of the same features. Husband Todd’s two jobs—commercial fisherman and oil production manager on the North Slope—required little formal education and provide ample time off. Yet they pay extremely well. If you include the permanent fund dividend that Alaska distributes to its residents as a way of sharing oil tax revenues, the family made about $100,000 last year, not counting Sarah’s $125,000 salary as governor.

Mr. Palin’s income alone would put the Palins at about the same level as many well-educated, white-collar workers we knew in Anchorage. It is also enough money to enjoy a quality of life that is, at least to a certain taste, superior to what is enjoyed almost anywhere else, either in cities or in the countryside. Like the bricklayer, the Palins can hunt and fish in a place of legendary abundance. Their hometown may be a dingy Anchorage exurb, but it has cheap, plentiful land bordering a vast and beautiful wilderness, which is crisscrossed by Todd (the “Iron Dog” champion) and the Palin children all winter. (By comparison, in the Northeast many leisure activities are brutally segregated by income: Martha’s Vineyard vs. the Poconos, the Jersey Shore vs. the Hamptons.)

This free and easy life is radically different from the desperate existences depicted in Barack Obama’s speeches. The main policy thrust of Obama’s acceptance speech (and of both Clinton speeches) was that middle-class families, and particularly blue-collar families like the Palins, are in crisis because of stagnant wages, unemployment, foreign competition, and growing inequality. But these problems, which are a statistical fact, seem a world away from the Palin family.

This disjunction between the good life for many Alaskans and the not-so-good life for working-class families elsewhere suggests several strategies for the McCain campaign. Palin certainly has more credibility than McCain to attack Democrats’ economic policies. More subtly, Palin embodies a notion that Republicans can create a society like Alaska—where the culture has a heavy working-class influence, state taxes are nonexistent, economic prospects are good for people regardless of formal education, and bricklayers can make the same money as urban lawyers (and have more fun in their spare time).

While Democratic policy tries to help blue-collar workers by making it easier for them to attend college and get office jobs—that is, by encouraging them to cease to be blue-collar—Palin’s Alaskan story offers hope from within the blue-collar culture. She validates the goodness of life in rural America because she has embraced a particularly exotic, turbocharged version of this life. Her biography, bound to be emphasized by Republicans, thus makes a powerful appeal to one of the country’s most decisive constituencies.

The rub, of course, is that however genuine it may be, Palin’s family life may not be possible outside Alaska.

The bottom line is supply of land vs. supply of labor. That’s always been America’s big advantage, but John McCain, of course, will never get it. Ben Franklin did get it, way back in 1751:

“For People increase in Proportion to the Number of Marriages, and that is greater in Proportion to the Ease and Convenience of supporting a Family. When Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life. … Europe is generally full settled with Husbandmen, Manufacturers, &c. and therefore cannot now much increase in People. … Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring Man, that understands Husbandry, can in a short Time save Money enough to purchase a Piece of new Land sufficient for a Plantation, whereon he may subsist a Family; such are not afraid to marry… Hence Marriages in America are more general, and more generally early, than in Europe.”

Franklin then pointed out the policy implication of this simple logic: don’t flood the country with foreigners. McCain will never, ever figure that out.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Via Matt Yglesias, I found SurveyUSA’s tables of Presidential polling in all 50 states (but not DC), as of early March. In each state, 600 voters were surveyed on McCain vs. Obama and McCain vs. Clinton match-ups.

They show McCain losing narrowly in the Electoral College against either Democrat. But that’s not what I’m interested in. I want to know whether family formation among non-Hispanic whites will paint the electoral map red or blue again. The answer appears to be: yes, although not quite as much as in 2000 and 2004.

Here are the correlation coefficients (not the r-squareds) for recent two-party races (leaving out the 1992 and 1996 elections that were perturbed by Perot), and leaving out Washington D.C. (an outlier that typically falls beautifully on the best fit line):

Correlation Coefficients 1988 Bush 2000 Bush 2004 Bush 2008 McCain-Obama 2008 McCain-Clinton

Overall, family formation appears more somewhat more important if Hillary is in the race than if Obama is. I assume that’s because Hillary is more of a known quantity, while Obama remains more of a blank slate upon which people are invited to fill in their fantasies.

I would assume that if 2008 elections were held today, the actual 2008 correlations would be higher because they’d be based on the universe of voters, not on samples of 600 per state, which injects random errors into the 2008 numbers, thus lowering correlations. On the other hand, as I’ve said before, the odds are that the November 2008 correlations will be lower than 2000/2004, both because they were so high in 2000 and 2004 that regression toward the mean will likely kick in; and because those two races featured fairly generic Republican and Democratic candidates, while only Hillary at present looks like a standard representative of her party. Also, the correlations would be higher if SurveyUSA had surveyed Washington D.C. — it helps drive up the correlations to stratospheric levels because, being, in effect, a city-state, it’s an outlier that falls right on the best fit lines).

Both McCain, who considered switching parties early in the decade, and (at least at present, Obama) are more sui generis than Bush and Gore/Kerry. On the other hand, Obama has been running so far as a bipartisan centrist. Eventually, I would assume, people will figure out where he’s really coming from, so a McCain-Obama race would likely end up more like 2000/2004 than it looks like now.

It’s not exactly clear what, besides decent judicial appointments, the Republicans are doing to merit the support of family-oriented voters and how long the can keep harvesting these votes without doing much in return.

By the way, I get a lot of knee-jerk criticism for correlating demographic statistics just for whites with election results summing all races. But, when you stop and think about it, that makes my findings even more unexpected and interesting. (I offered some explanations for why there’s a better fit between voting by state with white family formation rates than with total family formation rates in the American Conservative in 2004.)

These correlations above would be higher if Washington D.C.

And this isn’t just post hoc data mining on my part. The 2004 results confirmed a theory I had started to outline even before the 2000 election. I wrote about the connection between Total Fertility Rates and conservatism/liberalism in the case of two mostly white state — Utah and Vermont — in VDARE in June of 2000, before the 2000 election. And on 11/22/2000, I pointed out on UPI that Bush had beaten Gore in the 19 states with the highest white total fertility rate.

Methodology: As you’ll recall, the second statistic, Total Fertility Rate, is a well-established measurement for estimating the number of babies a woman would have between ages 15 and 44 based on birthrates by age in a particular year. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau hasn’t published total fertility rates by ethnicity by state for any year since 2002, so this statistic is starting to get a little dusty.

The first statistics, Years Married 18-44 is one I invented, modeled upon TFR, to denote the average number of years a woman can expect to be married between ages 18 and 44 based on rates of being married in a particular year. I only have it for the 2000 Census, so it’s even more out of date.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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As I’ve been pointing out for years, in both 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush’s share of the vote by state correlated closely with the rate of family formation among whites, which in turn correlated with the affordability of housing and decent schooling.

Will this pattern be seen again in 2008?

Keep in mind that the theory of affordable family formation doesn’t tell you who’s going to get elected President. It merely says that the relative voting orientation of a state is driven by how affordable marriage and children are among non-Hispanic whites in that state.

My first guess regarding 2008 would be that the correlations will almost certainly go down because they were so high in the last two elections that they can hardly go up any further.

Back in 1988, the correlations between white total fertility and Bush the Elder’s share of the vote by state was about 70% as large as in 2000/2004. In 1992 and 1996, the relationship either dropped sharply or grew, depending on how you treat Perot’s votes. The correlation between white total fertility and the GOP candidate’s share by state went way down versus 1988, but if you add Perot’s votes to Bush/Dole’s votes, the center-right share’s correlation with white total fertility went up.

Bush the Younger, for all his peculiarities, was apparently seen by voters as a fairly generic Republican candidate, and they also viewed Gore and Kerry as fairly generic Democratic candidates, allowing the underlying dynamic of affordability of family formation to drive the voting.

On the other hand, unusual candidates could upset the relationship. My guess would be that if the candidates in 2008 were Hillary, the feminist with one child, and Romney, the business executive with five children (especially if Romney weren’t a Mormon), affordable family formation would again rule the day.

On the other hand, I can’t really begin to guess what impact McCain and Obama would have on the distribution of voting among states.

Another issue is that I don’t have enough to see how fast voting patterns respond to changes in, say, total fertility. The latest Census Bureau statistics on non-Hispanic white total fertility by state, for example, is a report on 2002. My guess would be that numbers from a half-decade ago would remains reasonably useful — that this isn’t the kind of thing that changes year-to-year.

Any thoughts on what we’ll likely see at the state level in 2008?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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