Demographics

Demographics and Democrats

 

 

I am always amused by theories that, on the American political scene, a party has an electoral lock on the White House or that one party will be in control of Congress forever.  Such theories tend to be plentiful just before they are punctured.  The latest popular theory on the left is that the Democrats, due to illegal immigration from Mexico, will soon have total political dominance.  This has been bruited about since the 2000 election, so “soon” is not a precise term.  Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics takes a look at it:

The black vote: Neither of Barack Obama’s wins in 2008 or 2012 were dependent upon African-American turnout.  But it certainly helped.  Had the Republican nominee in 2008 received George W. Bush’s share of the black vote, and had African-American turnout resembled 2004, President Obama’s 2008 lead would have been halved.  In 2012 it would have been reduced to a single point.

The possibility of a reversion-to-mean among African-American voting patterns in 2016 was always a very real one.  If you look at turnout rates as reported by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey dating back to 2002, African-American rates have always lagged Republican rates by around five points, give or take (though if you control for socioeconomic status, African-Americans are more likely to vote than whites).  This was true in 2010 as well as 2014.  The exceptions were 2008 and 2012, when African-American turnout rates exceeded white rates. 

Now, it was possible that we had entered a period with a “presidential” electorate and a “midterm” electorate, but it was foolish to dismiss the possibility of a mean reversion once a charismatic history-making candidate such as Barack Obama didn’t top the ticket.  With the African-American share of the electorate declining to 12 percent in 2016, I think it’s pretty clear that something along these lines occurred. 

Likewise, with Donald Trump winning a larger share of the black vote than Mitt Romney or John McCain did, and with the midterm electorates looking more like the electorates of 2002 to 2006, we have to take seriously the possibility of a mean reversion there as well.

Hispanics: Analysis focuses on the “fast-growing” Hispanic vote, but the Hispanic share of the electorate has actually increased glacially.  It was 8 percent of the electorate in 2004, 9 percent in 2008, 10 percent in 2012, and 11 percent in 2016. If we rely on the census data for the electorate, it has been even smaller.  The fact that Hispanics are increasingly adopting a “white” identity (what Reihan Salam calls “racial attrition”) may blunt this growth in the future.

Moreover, I’ve long believed that analysis of what motivates Hispanic voters misses the mark.  White and liberal analysts are far too reductionist when it comes to these voters, and for some reason have decided that immigration reform is a make-or-break issue for them.  This ignores an awful lot of contrary evidence, such as the fact that a majority of Hispanic voters told exit pollsters in 2008 that immigration reform wasn’t important to them, or voted Republican anyway.  It ignores the fact that sizeable minorities of Hispanics voted for anti-illegal immigration candidates such as Jan Brewer and Sharron Angle.  It ignores the fact that a large number of Hispanic voters backed Propositions 187 and 209 in California, and so forth.

I was always skeptical (though not entirely dismissive) of the idea that Hispanic voters were on their way to voting like African-American voters. Given that Donald Trump has likely out-performed Mitt Romney among Hispanics, I think it is safe to say that 27 percent represents something of a floor for Republicans.  It could be the case that Republicans will suffer further erosion here over time, but given that, over the long term, the Hispanic vote has gradually become more Republican (Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis, Jimmy Carter and George McGovern all won larger shares of the Hispanic vote than Obama did in 2012), and that Hispanics become more Republican as they move from the border to the burbs, and that Hispanic immigration has for now leveled off, it may also be the case that the Republican share of this vote will grow.

Whites: I have written extensively about the Republican voting trend among white voters, especially among working-class whites. That is obviously an incredibly salient point in the wake of this election, where whites without college degrees voted like Hispanics, but with the impact Hispanics would have if they constituted 40 percent of the electorate. It is true that there weren’t enough working-class whites to win the election for Trump, as many asserted during the campaign.  But it was closer than a lot of people think.

I’m not going to rehash everything here; it is pretty well covered in the links.  I will just make two points.  First, mocking the GOP as the Party of White Voters was, from an electoral perspective, extremely short-sighted.  White voters are still 70 percent of the electorate (probably more). Winning around 60 percent of those voters will win a party an awful lot of elections.  If Trump were to bring college-educated whites back into the fold, that share will grow.

Second, this chart should have really scared Democrats a lot more than it apparently did.

Women: Here, I can be brief.  Analysts are right to examine the gender gap – the distance between the male share of the vote and the female share of the vote – but they are wrong to make predictions based upon it.  As I wrote earlier this year, the gender gap giveth, but it also taketh away. We see this on full display in 2016.  The 24-point spread in 2016 was actually the largest on record.  But like the year with the second-largest spread (2000) and the third-largest spread (1980), it ended in Republican victory.  In fact, looking at the years with the four smallest gender gaps in history (1976, 1972, 1992, 2008) we may reasonably ask ourselves if perhaps large gender gaps tend to hurt Democrats.

Overreach: The major theme of my book is that all party coalitions fall apart because, well, governing is hard and it inevitably forces parties to choose among members of their coalition.  More importantly – and this is where I think realignment theory isn’t just wrong but also counterproductive – parties see their wins as a sign that they’ve finally “won” at politics.  But this hubristic take is always wrong, and usually destructive. Such hubris destroyed the Republican coalition in 1910 when they thought they had won a mandate to pass the self-serving Payne-Aldrich tariff. It weakened the Democratic coalition in 1937 when FDR believed he had a mandate to pack the Supreme Court and pass the Third New Deal.  It destroyed the Republican coalition in 2005 when George W. Bush famously quipped that he had earned political capital and intended to spend it.

I have little doubt that a belief that demographics would save them at the presidential level led Democrats to take a number of steps that they will soon regret, from going nuclear on the filibuster to aggressive uses of executive authority.  But one thing deserves special attention.  A good deal of e-ink has been spilled describing the ways in which the culturally superior attitudes of the left drove Trumpism.  This too, I think, derived from a belief that history had a side and that progressives were on it, combined with a lack of appreciation of just how many culturally traditionalist voters there are in this country. Continue reading

The Illusion of Security

One Child

 

 

 

Lauren Sandler, a proponent of having one child, writes a predictable piece in a predictable news magazine, Time, about he joys of stopping at one child.

She’s on to something. According to the USDA, a child born in 2011 will cost an average of $234,900 to raise to age 18. If your household income is over $100,000, you can raise that number to about $390,000. Yes, there are some savings after the first child — you don’t have to buy another high chair! — but it’s not as though you get a huge volume discount on subsequent offspring. There are also opportunity costs of a mother’s loss of income from parental leave, scaling back hours or dropping out of the workforce entirely. No wonder, according to the USDA, two-parent households with two children devote over one-third of their income to their kids. Add it all up and there’s a strong economic case for stopping at one child.

And yet the world will tell you — from grandmothers to sitcoms to strangers in the supermarket — that money shouldn’t be a factor in deciding to have more children. If you express concern about how much children cost, then you’ve clearly got your priorities wrong. You’ll make it work, they tell you. Don’t be selfish. (I wrote about this and other stereotypes of parents with singletons in a cover story for TIME.)

Having raised three children I can say that for my family the 234,900 per child figure was way off base, unless one adds into the mix the lost funds of my wife not having a job during much of the time that the kids were growing up.  Of course that is the wrong way to look at it.  My wife and I did not get married in order to see how much stuff we could accumulate during our lives.  We got married because we loved each other and hoped that our love would be blessed with children.  My wife worked harder than I had to in our efforts to raise our kids, and I often told her that she had the important job in our house and I worked merely to facilitate her efforts for the kids.

In this vale of tears we have no guarantees as to our economic success, no guarantees as to how many, if any, kids we will be blessed with and no guarantees as to how they will turn out.  Every minute of our lives we are working without a net.  I often plan and calculate various aspects of my life to ensure the best outcome that I can, but I realize that the most important parts of my life are often completely out of my control.  It takes quite a bit of faith to endure the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that come our way in this world and to realize that we always and everywhere are dependent upon the mercy of God to see us through.  Modern men and women mostly do not accept this.  They think that they can eliminate risk and turn our journeys through this life into a cocoon where we will have endless fun, accumulate lots of material items and never hear of such things as pain and sacrifice.  Such is not, and never will be, our mortal lives.

A much more accurate reflection of our lives is contained in the closing prayer of the Rosary: Continue reading

Demographic Decline: The Reason That Dare Not Speak Its Name

 

 

Well what do you know, a recent spate of articles has recognized what many of us have known for decades:  Overpopulation is a myth and an ever-increasing decline in births is a bitter reality.  Typical of these articles is one by Jonathan V. Last in The Wall Street Journal:

America’s fertility rate began falling almost as soon as the nation was founded. In 1800, the average white American woman had seven children. (The first reliable data on black fertility begin in the 1850s.) Since then, our fertility rate has floated consistently downward, with only one major moment of increase—the baby boom. In 1940, America’s fertility rate was already skirting the replacement level, but after the war it jumped and remained elevated for a generation. Then, beginning in 1970, it began to sink like a stone.

There’s a constellation of reasons for this decline: Middle-class wages began a long period of stagnation. College became a universal experience for most Americans, which not only pushed people into marrying later but made having children more expensive. Women began attending college in equal (and then greater) numbers than men. More important, women began branching out into careers beyond teaching and nursing. And the combination of the birth-control pill and the rise of cohabitation broke the iron triangle linking sex, marriage and childbearing.

This is only a partial list, and many of these developments are clearly positive. But even a social development that represents a net good can carry a serious cost. Continue reading

Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

One of the many divides among modern Catholics is between what we might call the “moralizers” and the “justice seekers”. “Moralizers” are those who emphasize the importance of teaching people moral laws and urging them to abide by them. “Justice seekers” seek to mitigate various social evils (poverty, lack of access to health care, joblessness, etc.) and believe that if only these social evils are reduced, this will encourage people to behave better.

Moralizers tend to criticize the justice seekers by pointing out that following moral laws is apt to alleviate a lot of the social evils that worry the justice seekers, arguing, for example, that if one finishes high school, holds a job and gets married before having children, one is far less likely to be poor than if one violates these norms.

Justice seekers reply that the moralizers are not taking into account all the pressures there work upon the poor and disadvantaged, and argue that it’s much more effective to better people’s condition than to moralize at them (or try to pass laws to restrict their actions) because if only social forces weren’t forcing people to make bad choices, they of course wouldn’t do so.

(I’m more of a moralizer myself, but I think that we moralizers still need to take the justice seeker critique into account in understanding where people are coming from and what they’re capable of.)

One area in which the justice seeker approach seems to come into particular prominence is the discussion of abortion. We often hear politically progressive Catholics argue that the best way to reduce abortions is not to attempt to ban or restrict them, but rather to reduce poverty and make sure that everyone has access to health care. There’s an oft quoted sound bite from Cardinal Basil Hume (Archbishop of Westminster) to this effect:

“If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?”

You’d think that it was obvious, but I’m suspicious of the idea that having more money or resources makes us better or less selfish people (an idea which strikes me as smacking of a certain spiritual Rousseauian quality that doesn’t take fallen human nature into account) so I thought it would be interesting to see if there’s any data on this.

I was not able to find data on the relationship of abortion to health insurance, but I was able to find data on the relation of abortion to poverty, and it turns out that the Cardinal, and conventional wisdom, are wrong.
Continue reading

Choice and Gendercide

Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal featured an interesting review of Mara Hvistendahl’s new book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. The topic is one that pro-lifers are all to familiar with — the use of sex selective abortion throughout the world which has resulted in the death of 163 million unborn girls being aborted over the last 40 years, specifically because their parents wanted a boy instead. (In other words, over and above all of the abortions going on for other reasons.) The sheer number of “missing girls” is staggering — imagine a number of women equal to the current total populations of France and the UK combined.

Mara Hvistendahl is worried about girls. Not in any political, moral or cultural sense but as an existential matter. She is right to be. In China, India and numerous other countries (both developing and developed), there are many more men than women, the result of systematic campaigns against baby girls. In “Unnatural Selection,” Ms. Hvistendahl reports on this gender imbalance: what it is, how it came to be and what it means for the future.

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that’s as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China’s and India’s populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120. Continue reading

Inequality, Heritability and the American Dream

Ever since people finished identifying “the American Dream” — the idea that in the US in particular and the New World in general somehow allowed people to escape the hidebound social structures of the Old World and better themselves via their own efforts — people have been worried that it is on the point of dying. Americans continue to show an an unusual degree of belief in the ability those who work hard to better themselves by their own efforts. For instance, in the 1999 International Social Survey, 61% of Americans agreed that “people get rewarded for their effort”, whereas only 41% of Japanese agreed, 33% of British and 23% of French. This belief has actually increased in recent decades. In 2005 the New York Times reported that while in 1983 only about 60% Americans agreed that “It is possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich” by 2005 nearly 80% of Americans agreed with that statement.

And yet, those who study inter-generational income mobility have been increasingly worried in recent decades that despite American’s belief that people can work hard and get ahead, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to actually achieve this in the US. In a lengthy report by the liberal think thank Center for American Progress, Tom Hertz of American university brings together a number of the recent studies on intergenerational income mobility in the US as compared to other countries, showing how people who are born into the lower income quartiles in the United States are less likely to reach the top levels of income than in other countries such as Germany, Sweden or Denmark. Continue reading

Class and Marriage: A Reverse

It’s long been a trope of the “culture war” that the rich as social and religious libertines while the stolid middle class cling to traditional values. Or, as another portion of America sees it, that the educated elite have moved beyond the primative and prejudices social mores of the past while the uneducated cling to their guns and their religion. I would venture to say that for many of us reading here this may also to a stereotype which fits with our lived experience.

However, a report out from the Institute for American Values stands this set of stereotypes somewhat on its head, showing a educated elite which is going to church more and sleeping around less, while the broad middle class is going to church less, having more children out of wedlock and getting divorced more often.
Continue reading

Big Government and Small Society

The Democratic Party suffered a historic drubbing a couple weeks ago. However, one of the things with which several left leaning commentators publically consoled themselves was that demographics are in their favor. The parts of the electorate which tend to vote for Democrats are growing, while those who tends to vote for Republicans are shrinking. Progressives like to focus on the examples of this they feel proud of: the non-white percentage of the US population is growing, and non-whites tend to vote Democratic. Young people also lean more heavily progressive on a variety of issues than previous generations did at the same age.

From a progressive point of view this sounds pretty good: progressivism will succeed in the end because it is supported by young and diverse people, while conservatism will die out because it is supported by old white people — and no one like them anyway, did they?

I’d like to propose an alternate reading of the data: Continue reading

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 1)

If you move in conservative Catholic circles much, you have doubtless heard the phrase “contraceptive mentality”. Though used frequently and negatively, I think there is value in delving a bit more deeply into what we mean by the phrase. I was moved to write this in semi-response to an interesting post by Brett Salkeld a couple months back which sought to explore the bounds of what a “contraceptive mentality” is. Another good resource on the topic is this post at Catholic Culture on the contraceptive mentality.

While recognizing the dangers of trying to be too wide ranging in subject matter in the limited space of a blog post, my goal here is to set out answers to the following:

  • What is a “contraceptive mentality”?
  • How is a contraceptive mentality contrary to how humans are “meant” to function morally and sexually?
  • How, if at all, does NFP (natural family planning) relate to a contraceptive mentality?

I think it’s easiest to think about the idea of a contraceptive mentality against the backdrop of how we function sexually as human creatures — a term I use advisedly in that I want to emphasize our rootedness in a certain biological reality of being primates with certain biological systems and instincts, while at the same time not ignoring our rational, emotional and moral sensibilities in the sense that “human animal” strikes me as implying.

Uncertainty and Conception

One thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that humans have fairly even sexual drive all of the time. Or, at least, men have sexual drive pretty much all of the time. Women seem to have more variation in their level of interest, and indeed there is a fair amount of evidence that one driving (though unconscious) element of their drive is that they are more “in the mood” during the times of the month when they are fertile than when they are not. Another thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that a woman’s fertility is not marked by unmistakable physical signs (change of color and swelling of the genital area, changes in smell, etc.) (Though Bonobos have often been compared to humans in regards to their relatively constant sex drive, they are like chimps in that female fertility is readily apparent through external signs.)
Continue reading

Well, Good Luck With That

[Cross posted from DarwinCatholic]

I have the feeling that readers have emailed me about this site a couple times before, and I left it without comment because some topics seem like shooting fish in a barrel for a blog with the tagline “Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don’t survive.” However there comes a point when fish who choose to live in barrels deserve to come under fire.

Meet the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

VHEMT (pronounced vehement) is a movement not an organization. It’s a movement advanced by people who care about life on planet Earth. We’re not just a bunch of misanthropes and anti-social, Malthusian misfits, taking morbid delight whenever disaster strikes humans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.

We don’t carry on about how the human race has shown itself to be a greedy, amoral parasite on the once-healthy face of this planet. That type of negativity offers no solution to the inexorable horrors which human activity is causing.

Rather, The Movement presents an encouraging alternative to the callous exploitation and wholesale destruction of Earth’s ecology. Continue reading

Examining the "Youth Vote"

Ever since McGovern, Democrats repeatedly staked their electoral hopes on an expended avalanch of young voters. This year, it appeared to happen, with Obama winning the votes of 18-29 year olds in a landslide:

Democratic brand domination was the corollary to Obama’s 66%-32% blowout among 18-29 year-old voters. The youth also voted 63%-34% for House Democrats. So, young voters also voted straight ticket for the Democrats down ballot. The real story about the youth vote is not how many “new” voters Obama got to show up, but rather how he produced a gargantuan 34% differential in the youth, versus a 9% margin for Kerry in 2004.

In 2008, 18% of the electorate was comprised of 18-29 year-olds. That figure, when multiplied by the 34 percent differential in Obama voting equals 6.1 points, or a majority of Obama’s popular vote margin. Had the Democratic 18-29 year-old vote stayed the same as 2004’s margin, Obama would have won by about 1 to 2 points, and would not have won 73 electoral votes from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, or Indiana. “The Electoral College result would not have been the same, nor can we say that Obama would have won the election,” said Greenberg.

Does this overwhelming Obama victory among young voters represent a strong likelihood that the Democrats have a long rule ahead of them?

Continue reading

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