In the six months following the 2004 presidential election, I put forward a number of interrelated theories about the roots of the question of the day: why are some states Red and some states Blue. I showed how partisanship by state is related to fundamental aspects of the human condition such as the price of land, the feasibility of geographic expansion, marriage, and childbearing. (I later discovered that Benjamin Franklin had discovered aspects of my theory in the 1750s, but that his momentous leap forward had been memory-holed in recent decades due to his having put them forward in a pamphlet proposing immigration restriction.)
As I pointed out in 2005, partisan leanings in the Electoral College correlate with whether a state’s metropolis is inland or coastal. Inland cities such as Atlanta can expand their suburbs across almost 360 degrees, so their is much land within commuting distance of the city. Coastal cities, such as San Francisco, are more limited in their suburban expansion possibilities. So, real estate prices tend to be higher in coastal metropolises, which makes affordable family formation less feasible, which correlates more with voting for the anti-Family Values party, the Democrats.
A key variable, I found, for predicting the GOP’s share of the 2 party vote in a state’s presidential election is the average number of years married for white women between 18 and 44. For example, getting married younger and staying married is extremely conducive to voting Republican. I found very high correlations at the state level in 2000 and 2004. These dipped a little in 2008, but came roaring back in 2012 with the Mormon Mitt Romney (before declining again in 2016, due to Trump being the anti-Romney).
One big question this raises is whether the family formation and partisan effects are a result of nature or nurture.
We can use nature to mean both fundamental characteristics of identity, but also where they are from while nurture can mean where they move to.
For example, gays might move to San Francisco because they aren’t intending to have children so they don’t care about the extreme cost of a house with a yard in a good school district. Conversely, however, a heterosexual woman who moves to an expensive city has a higher chance of never having legitimate children, so the GOP’s family values stances might seem to her unappealing and even offensive.
I looked at various pieces of evidence and didn’t see anything decisive in either direction, eventually settling upon a default guess, as usual, that this effect might be 50-50 nature and nurture.
I recommended at the time a longitudinal study of women to see how where they moved affected them. In the ideal version, two identical twin sisters graduate from college together, but one gets a job in, say, a bank in San Francisco and one in a bank in Dallas. How do their lives differ? Who is more likely to get married ever? By age 30? To have legitimate children? To buy a house? To vote Republican?
Now I see that a U. of Chicago-led team of researchers is assembling a longitudinal database that might indeed be able to answer related questions. From their research brief:
Imagine two girls who grew up as friends on the same street, in the same rural town, where they attended the same church and schools, and generally shared the same cultural experiences through high school. Eventually, these two girls become adults and end up living in different places, perhaps hundreds of miles apart. Now imagine two other adult women who live in the same place but who were raised in different places.
What type of life experiences will these women have in terms of the work they do and the wages they earn? Will they get married and, if so, how young? If they have children, when will they start to raise a family? How many children will they have? According to the authors of the new BFI working paper, “The Effects of Sexism on American Women: The Role of Norms vs. Discrimination,” the answers to those questions depend crucially on where women are born and where they choose to live their adult lives.
From the New York Times:
New economic research suggests that the attitudes toward a woman when she is born have a lasting impact on how much she works, and earns, as an adult.
By Jim Tankersley
Aug. 19, 2018
White women born in parts of the United States where sexist attitudes are more prevalent grow up to earn less and to work less than women born elsewhere, relative to men born in those same states, new economic research shows.
Here’s the academic paper: “The Effects of Sexism on American Women: The Role of Norms vs. Discrimination” by Kerwin Kofi Charles, Jonathan Guryan, and Jessica Pan.
That impact on career and salary continues even if those women move to less sexist areas as adults, a finding that suggests the beliefs a woman grows up with can shape her future behavior in a way that affects her career and salary.
The research, which will be released as a working paper on Monday from the economists Kerwin Kofi Charles of the University of Chicago,
Professor Charles is a very interesting and independent-minded thinker.
Jonathan Guryan of Northwestern University and Jessica Pan of National University of Singapore, highlights a continued divergence across the United States in social attitudes about the role of women in the work force. It shows how much location — where a woman is born and where she chooses to live as an adult — matters for her work and pay.
Perhaps most strikingly, the study finds that a woman’s lifelong earnings and how much she works are influenced by the levels of sexism in the state where she was born. A woman born in the Deep South is likely to face a much wider economic gender gap than a woman born on the Pacific Coast, the research shows, even if both women move to New York as adults.
Housing is more expensive on the Pacific Coast than in the Southeast in part because cities want to be close to the Pacific or to inland bays (San Diego, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, SF, and Seattle, with Portland using anti-suburban expansion legislation to artificially act like a coastal city). In contrast, hurricanes make living on the coast in the southeast less desirable. For example, Galveston was the metropolis of southeastern Texas until the 1900 hurricane killed 6,000 residents, after which the economy relocated 45 miles inland to Houston.
“That’s the first shocking thing,” Mr. Charles, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, said in an interview, “just how large and persistent the differences are.”
To make sure they were focusing only on gender, and not racial, discrimination, the researchers studied only white adults. While the researchers expect that the same gender gaps apply to other demographics, they were unsure how much of the disparity could be attributed to racial — versus gender — discrimination.
The economists drew upon decades of statistics from the Census Bureau and the General Social Survey, a poll that repeats questions over time and documents changing American attitudes on a wide range of issues.
The GSS also asks about voting and partisan identification, so much of my research agenda could be within reach of this team.
The researchers tracked responses to eight questions about the role of women in society, including the degree to which Americans agreed that “Women should take care of running their home and leave running the country up to men” and “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and women takes care of the home and family.” The more a respondent agreed that women should not work outside the home or participate in politics, or could not effectively juggle career and family responsibilities, the more “sexist” the researchers judged the answers to be.
Alternatively, the more “pro-family” the women tend to be.
Levels of sexism varied widely by state.
“Sexism” is a tendentious term. A more neutral term could be “Traditional,” with could be contrasted with “Feminist.”
They have declined across the board over time, but the differences between states have persisted. The researchers found that sexist attitudes are most prevalent in the southeast and least prevalent on the West Coast. The Midwest varies: Ohio has relatively low levels of sexism, while neighboring Indiana is relatively high.
Cleveland is a coastal city, while Indianapolis is not.
But I think the differences between Ohio and Indiana trace back more to Albion’s Seed differences in original settlers. Much of northern Ohio was settled by post-Puritans from the Burned Over district of Western New York state, a super-reformist center of self-improvers and social moralists. Indiana is more Scots-Irish and Southern Lowland.
A reader sent me a detailed description of one southern Indiana county, Dubois, that was settled by Germans rather than Scots-Irish and still stands out today on various measures of good government and public spirited citizenry.
The census data on the labor market show a persistent gap in what white men and women earn and how much they participate in the labor force, though that gap has narrowed over time. But that gender gap varies by states — and it’s that variation that helped the researchers isolate the effects of sexism, by place.
The researchers looked at men and women who were born in the same state and then moved to the same state, like North Carolinians who moved to New York, or Texans who moved to Colorado. They found that the gap in wages and employment between men and women in those groups was bigger for those who were born in states with higher levels of sexism.
They also find that, compared with women around them who were born elsewhere, the women born in more “sexist” places marry and have their first child “at appreciably younger ages.”
Another recent paper, in which Ms. Pan was also one of the writers, found a sharp decline in employment for women after their first child is born, and also that women’s attitudes toward gender roles grow more traditional after a birth.
Mr. Charles, Mr. Guryan and Ms. Pan found that the results held even when controlling for age, education and migration patterns, which is to say, Americans historically tend to move to states close to their state of birth as adults, if they move at all.
The research cannot say for certain why those differences persist. The economists say that women appear to internalize social norms when they are young on issues like when to have children, what tasks are appropriate for women in the work force or even how much society values the work of women. …
My guess is that there is a pretty high correlation between attitudes and the cost of real estate. That could be studied.
Internalizing a culture that does not value women working outside the home, or that makes a woman’s role as a mother a priority, could also discourage women from working longer and less flexible hours. The Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin has found that much of the gender gap in pay comes from differences within occupations, such as law and medicine, where men are rewarded for their disproportionate willingness to work long hours and agree to be on call when they are off duty.
Birthplace matters no matter where women move as adults. But where they settle matters, too, the research shows. …
Her experience tracks with the study’s findings that the sexism in the places where women live and work as adults affects them — but those effects are divided by gender.
Women are more likely to marry and have children early when they are surrounded by other women who hold more “sexist” views on the appropriateness of women working outside the home, the study shows; the views of men don’t seem to matter to that calculation. When it comes to employment and wages, though, women don’t seem to be affected by the views of other women around them.
But when the men around them are more sexist, women work less, and they earn less — an effect the researchers ascribed to old-fashioned discrimination.
Jim Tankersley covers economic and tax policy for The New York Times. @jimtankersley