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As a complement to Jayman’s recent post on state laws regarding corporal punishment, I’ll note that blacks express the greatest support for the practice as a means of disciplining children. Additional positive correlates include being male, politically conservative, and of modest intelligence. The GSS item doesn’t specify who the spanker is, though it’s reasonable to assume that much of the time the respondent has a parent in mind–if the question specifically inquired about opinions on schools using corporal punishment, the approval rates would surely be lower across the board.

One of Jayman’s recurring themes is to employ an American Nations paradigm when evaluating social phenomena. The GSS doesn’t allow quite that level of granularity, but it does break survey participants up by census region. The percentages of respondents who either “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement “It is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking”. For contemporary relevance, all responses are from 2000 onward. Here is a map of said regions for those who are unfamiliar with them:

Region %Spank
1) East South Central 85.9
2) South Atlantic 80.0
3) West South Central 78.5
4) East North Central 72.9
5) Mountain 71.8
6) West North Central 71.4
7) Mid Atlantic 68.2
8) Pacific 64.1
9) New England 46.9

Most acceptable in the South, least so in the Northeast. Embers of the Civil War burn on.

And the same, by reported ethnicity. Minimum sample size of 50, though N is much exceeds that for most groups:

Ethnicity %Spank
1) African 84.5
2) “American” 81.5
3) Native American 79.0
4) Scottish 78.5
5) Puerto Rican 78.3
6) Dutch 74.9
7) English/Welsh 73.3
8) German 73.1
9) French 71.3
10) Spanish 71.1
11) Mexican 69.0
12) Irish 68.4
13) Filipino 64.5
14) Swedish 63.3
15) Italian 63.0
16) Chinese 61.6
17) Norwegian 61.3
18) Indian (dot) 59.7
19) Russian 59.4
20) Czechoslovakian 58.1

White liberals, black rednecks. Those who refer to themselves as “American” are largely Scottish, and unsurprisingly express attitudes similar to those who consider the highlands to be an ancestral homeland. Most people in the US of Russian national descent are Jewish, not little Putins. No idea about the Slavs!

Parenthetically, regarding the question of ethnicity, people much smarter and far more perspicacious than myself have said that in the contemporary US it is basically meaningless. Perhaps as a biological marker, okay, though it does track geographically and it seems to provide some insight into cultural characteristics. My working assumption is to treat it as good–or at least useful–information, and not an enemy of the perfect even if it falls well short of being as much.

Finally, in the comments section of Jayman’s post, there is some incredulity about the use of corporal punishment among readers who are from states where it is legal. I suspect that in these states it occurs almost exclusively in private schools, though few if any of the state laws distinguish between public and private in questions of the legal permissibility of the practice.

GSS variables used: SPANKING(1-2)(3-4), YEAR(2000-2012), REGION, ETHNIC(1)(5)(6)(7)(10)(11)(14)(15)(17)(18)(19)(20)(22)(23)(24)(25)(26)(30)(31)(97)

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. I thought "American"-Americans were Border Reivers, not Scottish Highlanders.

  2. IHTG,

    Yeah and various lowlanders, too, probably.

  3. Surprising approval rates all the way around. One could be forgiven for thinking that administering a swat on the tush makes a person a monster and calls for social services to get involved.

  4. I am with Razib on this one. He once expressed something to the effect that parents who would spank also have children who need it. We all know the calm reasonable types whose children are generally the same. We also know the annoying unreasonable types whose children are also like their parents and need a wake up call in the form of a painful swat.

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