January 2, 2006

Does having daughters make you vote left?

The Times of London reports:

Andrew Oswald, from Warwick University, and Nattavudh Powdthavee, of the Institute of Education at London University, have discovered that how parents vote is linked to the gender of their children. The more daughters there are in a household, the more likely the parents are to vote Labour or Liberal Democrat. In an unpublished paper that has been submitted to an economics journal, the pair declare: “This paper provides evidence that daughters make people more left wing. Having sons, by contrast, makes them more right wing.” ...

Professor Oswald and Dr Powdthavee drew their data from the British Household Panel Survey, which has monitored 10,000 adults in 5,500 households each year since 1991 and is regarded as an accurate tracker of social and economic change. Among parents with two children who voted for the Left (Labour or Lib Dem), the mean number of daughters was higher than the mean number of sons. The same applied to parents with three or four children. Of those parents with three sons and no daughters, 67 per cent voted Left. In households with three daughters and no sons, the figure was 77 per cent.

But it was the “switchers” who provided the most compelling evidence. By examining declared voting preferences for the period 1991 to 2004, Professor Oswald and Dr Powdthavee found that 539 people switched from Left to Right, and 802 switched from Right to Left. The most significant difference between these two groups of switchers? The voters who swung from Right to Left had borne, on average, more daughters.

Professor Oswald, the father of two daughters, sat on the results for three months. He decided to release them this week, after finding the same pattern in German households. For every daughter a German has, he is 2.5 per cent more likely to vote for the SPD, the largest party of the Left. The link holds true even when parental age, income and education are taken into account, and Professor Oswald is certain it is causal. Since voting patterns cannot determine the gender of children, he says, the children’s gender must be influencing parental voting pattern.

But how and why? He frames his theory in utilitarian terms: because women tend to be more group-oriented, and to be paid less, we may expect them to favour a political system that taxes heavily and spends the taxes on communal improvements, such as crèches or police patrols. Women benefit from such policies without bearing a high tax burden because they are on low incomes. Parents of daughters are subconsciously aware that such policies favour women, and thus feel more inclined towards them.

Has anybody seen data like this for the U.S.? It sounds plausible here too. I think it's one reason why states where white people have more children are so much more likely to be red states than blue states. Feminism makes the most sense to people who don't have sons, and the more kids you have, the more likely you are to have sons. Roughly speaking, half of people with one child have no son, versus only 1/8th of people with three kids.

A reader writes:

"I looked at the General Social Survey and compared the answers given by 56
respondents who have three sons and no daughters with 59 people who have
three daughters and no sons. Twenty-three percent of the first group said
they were liberal, while only 16 percent of the second group described
themselves as liberal. So, there is no evidence here that having daughters
liberalizes parents. In my own experience, having a daughter makes me
think about the threat posed by criminals, so if there is any influence it
would be in a conservative direction."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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