January 20, 2005

The Dirt Gap


"A Tale of Two States: America's future is either Texas or California," my new exploration of the red-blue divide is now available to electronic subscribers to The American Conservative in the upcoming February 14, 2005 issue. An excerpt:

Now that California is a bastion of liberalism, having given the Democratic Presidential candidates victory margins of 10 to 13 points in each of the last four elections, it's easy to forget that Republican hopefuls carried the state nine times out of ten from 1952 up through 1988...

In contrast, Texas ... voted Democratic in four out of five elections as recently as 1960 through 1976. Yet, it has gone Republican the last seven times...

In reality, the Electoral College divide grows out of discordances over the fundamentals of social life: marriage and children. In 2004, Bush carried the 19 states with the highest expected lifetime fertility among non-Hispanic white women (with Texas at 1.93 babies to California's 1.65). Even more strikingly, he won the 25 states where white women are married the most number of years on average between 18 and 44 (15.2 years in Texas to 12.5 years in California),

Why the correlations? Consider how differently one well-known issue can seem depending on your family structure: Should the government let the Boy Scouts ban gay men from becoming scoutmasters? To voters who are single, or married but childless, or have only daughters, this often appears as a purely abstract question of justice: of course, everybody should be guaranteed equal opportunity to be a scoutmaster. Yet, to citizens with sons, a ban may seem like a common sense precaution against temptation: of course, homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to lead their boys into the woods overnight.

Both the marriage and fertility factors are likely tied to another statistic that correlates remarkably well with the 2004 voting: Bush won the 26 states with the least inflation in housing prices between 1980 and 2004... In Texas, where Republicans have grown in strength over the decades, housing prices are up only 89 percent since 1980, the second lowest growth rate in the country...

While the arrow of causality no doubt points in multiple directions, it's plausible that the price of a house with a yard can sometimes make the difference between how far down the path young adults go toward marriage, children, and voting Republican.

In turn, the sizable gap between home prices in expensive blue and expansive red America appears rooted in their dissimilar landscapes, as vividly illustrated by coastal California and sprawling Texas...

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Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

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