June 25, 2012

Whither the white working class vote?

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times has a post, White Working Chaos, on the various disputes among social scientists such as Andrew Gelman, William Frey, and Larry Bartels on the voting patterns of the white working class. 

Allow me to offer a theory that I haven't tested directly, but doesn't even come up: a main cause of confusion is overlooking the voting impact of the decline of being married among the white working class.

As I pointed out after the 2004 election:
Bush carried merely 44% of the single white females but 61% of the married white women—a 17 point difference. 
Among white men, Bush won 53% of the singles and 66% of the married—a 13 point difference.

Now, that's for all classes, but as Charles Murray's Coming Apart finally got the chattering class to notice, the upper classes of white people continue to be married at a fairly high rate, but not so for the white working class and lumprenproles.

Logically, this would suggest that the GOP would favor policies that would encourage white people to marry -- e.g., the Ben Franklin idea of high wages and low land prices -- but that's simply off the mental radar.


Anonymous said...

Steve, may we assume that you are going to issue a formal statement on what Barry and Janet are doing to the ancient English tradition of the Rule of Law?

Because we are very rapidly approaching a Fort Sumter moment as regards our relationship with this culture of insanity.

Anonymous said...

too bad kerry lost in 2004. dems would have lost big in 2008

Anonymous said...

"Rule of law" basically can and will be trumped by the notion of moral superiority, something that the "respectable conservatives" will barely challenge.

Anonymous said...

White people don't matter.

Whiskey said...

Very interesting Steve. Among umarried Whites, women still are left, but not by much.

Though that is also a function of age and well, money. You have more money generally in your thirties and forties than twenties. If marriage among Whites is delayed, you might just be measuring there wealth (people generally don't like getting taxed for other people not even remotely related to them) and age (not in college, few goodies for them and much for everyone else who are competitors).

ATBOTL said...

How much of the marriage gap is explained by age? What about socio-economic class and region?

Anon87 said...

Who cares Steve. Don't you know this entire election is in the hands of the Hispanic vote?!

TGGP said...

Electing Kerry in 2004 also would have served as a rebuke to GWB's first term.

Whiskey, I've been telling you that white women aren't nearly as leftist as you claim for a while now. But I thank you for bringing up the marriage-age correlation. I tried to make the GSS site run a regression analysis, but it weirdly codes the MARITAL variable as 1-married, 2-widowed, 3-divorced, 4-separated, 5-never married, which is not at all what you want from a numerical variable in a regression. There are way to many ages for me to want to paste such a huge table (even assuming away wordpress' width limitations) and I don't feel like calculating the sizes to group them into roughly equal sized buckets of a presentable number.

Matthew said...

So what direction is the causation? Are women single because they're liberal, or liberal because they're single?

If more men asked their girlfriends to marry them would the shift favor Republicans? If a million more men got engaged and married before November would Democratic strategists shriek in agony? It's interesting to think that the fate of the Republic could lie in the hands of men popping the question.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Matthew's question is interesting, and leads to the next question. What about parenting? I have long maintained that if the franchise were only extended to people who had raised two or more children beyond the age of eight*, the Democratic Party would cease to exist and the Republican Party would be quite different.

But indeed, which way does the causation run? Is it learning reality from raising children, especially a second, comparative one who knocks that "environment is everything" nonsense out of you, or is it those who want to perpetuate culture (rather than varieties of beetles and Sacred Wilderness) who have children?

*Single conservatives would shout "foul," until they totted up the numbers and saw what they had.

CorkyAgain said...

So what direction is the causation? Are women single because they're liberal, or liberal because they're single?

Or is there a third, unidentified cause which leads them to be both liberal and single?

E.g., the devil made them do it. (Identifying the devil in this case is an exercise I'll leave to the reader.)

Dutch Boy said...

I can't recall a national election in which the white working class had so little to choose from.

patrick said...

Agree with Dutch Boy. A rich, out of touch corporatist vs. a leftist who thinks of white people who didn't graduate from elite colleges as, at best, "bitter clingers."

Anonymous said...

That John Avlon line about Romney having 3 home states rang true for me. Aside from the whole Mormon thing (which I've always considered unremarkable) he seems like the cardboard cutout industrialist wholesome family man from central casting, i.e. you could have dug him up just about anywhere. It's a toss-up which candidate is the less rootsy, organic, all-America standard bearer this time.

So I expect the media to blare Mormon horror 24/7 until Nov.

Anonymous said...

About the best we can do now is to just cross our fingers and hope that somewhere, deep down within his innermost heart-of-hearts, the Mittster really does "get it".

At least we've got the following empiricals:

BHO x Michelle: 2 minor daughters

Bubba x Hitlery: 1 childless daughter who is embroiled in a "marriage" of dubious authenticity and who is rapidly approaching the onset of womb-barren-ness

Dubya x Laura: 2 adult childless daughters [with one who has already been married for 4 years now and STILL NO GRANDCHILDREN]

Willard x Ann: 5 adult children with 18 GRANDCHILDREN AND COUNTING

So, if nothing else, the Mittster would be the first president in about a quarter-century who had any sort of personal investment in the future of this country - as far as we can tell, the Dubya Bushes and the Clintons have both purchased one-way tickets on the express train to extinction.

Anonymous said...

This election is ABO...nobody likes the cardboard Mitt except when compared to Barrack. Lucky for Mitt as I'm sensing an enormous well of pure hatred for BHO.

JayMan said...

So what direction is the causation? Are women single because they're liberal, or liberal because they're single?

On the issue of causation, and much of the Left/Right divide in America, see here.

The short answer is, for the most part, that women stay single longer because they are liberal (and less inclined to get married).

Anonymous said...

Well, the south isn't great either since Republicans could not do anything about the high minority population afro-american which has the highest out of wedlock births MS is number 1 and Texas has a lot of hispanics another group that has a lot of out of wedlock births. In fact, the most middle class states like Vermont or New Hempshire are not as popular with Republicans. Vermont has too many ex-New Yorkers. And New Hempshire is more libertarian than social conservative. Lowest out of wedlock births states are swing states.

Matthew said...

"So, if nothing else, the Mittster would be the first president in about a quarter-century who had any sort of personal investment in the future of this country - as far as we can tell, the Dubya Bushes and the Clintons have both purchased one-way tickets on the express train to extinction."

Mitt's 'investment in the future of this country' is in five sons (not one of whom served in the military) and dozens of grandchildren whom he thoroughly expects to be firmly rooted in the upper class. He has good reason to think this will happen: he's worth at least $250 million, and he plans to eliminate the estate tax.

The random granchild who doesn't manage to stay in the upperclass? He's willing to sacrifice one or two for profit of the rest of his brood.

patrick said...

Agree. Mitt's advantage is that he's not Obama. He would be a very weak candidate against, say, Bill or Hillary Clinton.

Anonymous said...


Audio & Photos
A Home in the Colonias
While Texas is affordable for whites this isn't true for the hispanic population in South Texas and there is good reason for the hispanics in Texas to vote Democratic if you read the article.

The history of the colonias is filled with broken promises to buyers and contracts that left many vulnerable to losing everything when they missed payments. Titles were not handed over until land was paid for, and sometimes deeds were not officially recorded.

But protests by residents and groups like the United Farm Workers of America, as well as rising Hispanic political power, drew state attention. Since 1989, laws have tightened development standards. The state appointed ombudsmen to ensure that buyers got the required services.

In 1995, the Texas Legislature required developers of new colonias to install electricity, water lines and sewage pipes or septic tanks.

Federal and state grants have also helped bring utilities and paved streets to older colonias, though the task is far from complete. The 2006 state analysis of six counties found that the continuing lack of infrastructure and proper drainage in 442 colonias with 62,675 residents “exposes the population and surrounding communities to increased threats of infectious diseases and public health hazards.”

Some early residents used colonia homes as a springboard to moving on, but many have shown determination to sink roots in this region, where lax zoning standards permit them to live in houses as they build them. The results are not always pretty or safe, but for many, they offer a chance they could not pursue elsewhere.

“In our culture, once you have property, you belong, and even if it’s a shack, you stay,” said Blanca Juarez, the Starr County ombudswoman for the state’s Colonia Initiatives Program.

Despite their hard work, most residents remain poor, with longstanding problems like low high school graduation rates. Nearly all the children are covered by Medicaid, but Texas provides little health coverage to adults.

Elia Estrada, 35, is suffering the consequences. Ms. Estrada, her husband, a construction worker, and their three children have been living in a one-bedroom structure while she and several relatives help finish a house at Proyecto Azteca in San Juan, Hidalgo County. Families put in 550 hours of “sweat equity,” and then they can buy one of the 800-square-foot, three-bedroom homes for $30,000 on a 20-year no-interest mortgage. The houses are attractive and meet all codes.

“We’ll have our own bedrooms,” she enthused, taking a break from painting windows.

“But I’m sick a lot these days,” she added. She found a doctor who would see her for just $35 and discovered she has high blood pressure and diabetes. But she cannot afford treatment.

The oldest colonias tend to have the nicest houses, in part because families bought plots for $500 and have had decades to complete construction. In newer settlements like the eight-year-old Abraham colonia, also in Hidalgo County, empty lots now cost upwards of $20,000 and many residents are still at the early stages of making a house.

Alma Avila, 33, her husband and four children live in a yellow trailer in Abraham with missing window panes that they cover with plywood. The satellite dish is, she said with a laugh, “just for decoration.”

But Ms. Avila and her husband are taking the long view. They bought their plot five years ago for $14,000, on a 15-year loan.

“Once we finish paying for the lot, we’ll have money to start thinking about a house,” she said. “I hope this trailer will last 10 more years.”

Ms. Avila has already planted saplings and flowers.