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The Liberal/Conservative Baby Gap: Time Depth
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Updated 8/28/12: See below!

As I’ve discussed previously, the low White fertility rate seen in America today stems mostly from liberals. This is because liberals contain a higher share of secular individuals and because liberal women pursue more education on average, which leads them to delay child birth (and often marriage as well).

I have posited that these differences are magnified in America with respect to the European countries of origin of White Americans thanks to evolutionary forces during the colonial era that acted upon White settlers. This is because—as was the case during the European colonization of the country—when habitable land is not a constraining factor, those who breed fastest have a distinct selective advantage. Religious and politically conservative individuals often have “pro-natalist” attitude, likely both because they are less materialistically oriented and because religious and social conservatism helps to curb sexually impulsive behavior (through the strict social mores around sex; for conservatives, sex is more coupled with procreation than it is for liberals). Overall, the behavior of conservatives leads more reliably to reproduction than does the behavior of liberals.

But have conservatives always had a fertility edge? I decided to take a look back into the GSS to find out:

Edit: [I realized after I posted this that for the older cohorts, I needed not limit myself to the 1990 onward GSS data, so as to maximize sample sizes, I looked at earlier datasets, 1972-2010 datasets for the 1899-1919 cohorts, and 1983-2010 datasets for the 1920-1939 cohort.]

This chart is the average number of children had by non-Hispanic White Americans, by political views and by year of birth, from the 1990-2010 GSS data (the 1960-1972 cohort is drawn from the 2000-2010 data only here, however). The error bars are the 95% confidence intervals, to give an idea of the sample sizes.

Edit: As can be seen, in every cohort, the pattern is fairly consistent, with conservatives reliably being more fertile than their liberal counterparts. This is even true for the pre-birth control cohorts, even though the pattern is not as pronounced there. [With the increased sample sizes in the pre-1920 cohorts, I found that the liberal-conservative skew in fertility seems to have disappeared. I noticed that the 1900-1919 cohort was the one who spent their early childbearing years during the Great Depression, so I separated them from the 1883-1899 cohort. It is possible that everyone’s fertility was suppressed going through the bottleneck of the Depression. It’s unclear what’s going on in the 1800s cohort, as sample sizes are small. The implications of this for my hypothesis is not clear, as the earliest cohort may be exhibiting the overall pattern, but also may not.] This is another piece of evidence [edit: that may support] a key point of my Pioneer Hypothesis: that liberals are just, on the whole, slow-breeders while conservatives are, overall, fast-breeders.

(Republished from JayMan's Blog by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Stacy says:

    The early 20th century was a mixed world (it had conservative and liberal morality bubbling down the surface) but a predominant conservative culture and thereby even liberal women had the same reproductive rates as moderate or conservative types. We now live in a secular liberal modern world. Ironically, in a liberal modern world conservatives outbreed liberals and a secular culture may even spell the death of such liberals that created it. If conservatives don’t push liberals to procreate, they just don’t do it. Ergo, you can’t compare early 20th century to early 21st century. Liberals aren’t forced to procreate by their conservative brothers and sisters anymore.

  2. Dan says:

    I don’t think you need to look very deep. The official conservative platform is against abortion and more religious. The liberal platform is more pro-abortion and less religious (or, increasingly, antireligious).

    Religions tend to be explicitly pro-natalist in their teachings.

    There is no need to look deeply into genetics on this. The conservative movement and liberal movement have become increasingly pro and anti-natalist respectively in recent years, in America at least.

    And there is more. If you have kids, you appreciate a party that is tough on crime and the bad element, and you appreciate a party that focuses more about future stability than present handouts.

    If you have no kids I suppose you have greater affinity for the party that celebrates sexual liberty.

    Me, I just want the pervs to stay away from my daughters and son and it pisses me off that a party will celebrate sexual liberty.

    Just look at the platforms of the parties. Of course there will be a baby gap. Many years ago, the liberal party had nothing to do with abortion, crime-coddling, anti-religion and sexual liberty, and didn’t repel families back then.

    • Replies: @JayMan
  3. JayMan says: • Website
    @Dan

    There is no need to look deeply into genetics on this.

    Yes we DO need to look into genetics on this, since political orientation is highly heritable, as Razib Khan recently reaffirmed.

    The official conservative platform is against abortion and more religious. The liberal platform is more pro-abortion and less religious (or, increasingly, antireligious).

    Religions tend to be explicitly pro-natalist in their teachings.

    And then the question becomes WHY is this so?

    If you have kids, you appreciate a party that is tough on crime and the bad element, and you appreciate a party that focuses more about future stability than present handouts.

    If you have no kids I suppose you have greater affinity for the party that celebrates sexual liberty.

    Which direction does the causal arrow go?

    As HBD Chick puts it, where do ideologies come from?

  4. Hail says: • Website

    A possible criticism of this data:

    Political-ideology has not always been hand-in-glove with ideology. I.e., an American woman who grew up in the 1910s and 1920s saying that she is “a Democrat” means something very different than it does today, of course. An Irish-Catholic of Al Smith’s day would’ve called herself left-wing, but that group of Whites still had a sky-high TFR at the time. This may explain the lack of apparent TFR difference among the older cohorts.

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