29 November 2012

Fertility and national politics

Almost invisibly over the past decade, family size in America has emerged as our deepest political dividing line.  Stunningly, the postponement of marriage and parenting — the factors that shrink the birth rate — is the very best predictor of a person’s politics in the United States, over even income and education levels, a Belgian demographer named Ron Lesthaeghe has discovered. Larger family size in America correlates to early marriage and childbirth, lower women’s employment, and opposition to gay rights — all social factors that lead voters to see red...

Yet, for all those social measures on the 2012 ballot, our near-continental divide of politics and fertility was even more distinct during the Bush era... Celinda Lake, one of the Democratic party’s leading pollsters and strategists, who predicted the single ladies swing well before the exit polls, told me our future partisan fertility map is being redrawn. She says that as birth rates rise amongst women of color who vote consistently Democrat, the states working blue may make a radical turn to become our most fertile ones. “We’re on the verge of a dramatic shift. It will be a different conversation ten years from now,” Lake told me, estimating that the predictive power of fertility will last until 2020, but not much longer.
The map does not show data for all the states.  What it demonstrates is that the states with fertility rates 70 and above tended to be "red" states (Hawaii the exception), while those with rates below 60 were all "blue" states in this most recent election.

Text from NYMag, via The Dish.   Fertility data: CDC, "Births: Preliminary Data for 2011."


  1. I don't think Hawaii has ever been a red state.

    1. You're quite correct, and I notice now that the map at the via had Hawaii in red, but the source article has it in blue. I've reverted to the source article map and modified the descriptive text accordingly.

      Thanks for the heads-up.

    2. In 1984, Reagan was re-elected president by every state except Minnesota. That doesn't exactly make Hawaii a red state, but it's something..

  2. Life imitates art. Anyone seen Idiocracy? ;)

  3. Religiosity yields similar results. Of course a lot of those rates are bolstered by immigrants who have been repeatedly demonized by GOP voters so things are certainly changing.

  4. WTF do the numbers mean? Births per 100 women? Percentage of women who have kids? Birth rates as I have seen them are usually given as X per woman. What does fertility rate mean, anyway?

    I also dispute Celinda Lake's points about "women of color". Birth rates among blacks are not going up, I don't think. If she is wrapping in Hispanic immigrants, that is mixing apples and mangos. As to Hispanic women who are born here, I am certain the birth rate is going down, not up.

    FYI, the birth rate IN Mexico is virtually the same as it is in the USA as a whole (about 2.5 births per woman)..

    But the Hispanics ARE changing the demographics in several states, including Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. Whether this has to do with birth rates, I don't know. Nevada has already begun to tip to Blue, as did New Mexico and Colorado.

    As long as the GOP sucks up to the racists who build walls at the border with Mexico and who support the idiot racist white supremacist sheriff in Az, they will lose votes - not by birth/fertility rates, but by being against common everyday citizens.

    At least the Hispanics don't vote against their own self interest like hillbillies, ridgerunners, and white trailer park trash do all over the South and Southwest. The Tea Party has taken over the GOP, based on unstated racism, religious antipathy to abortion and fear of gays. Using those, they get stupid people to vote against their own self interest - poor people voting against the very people who want to improve their lives. All because of three knee-jerk issues.

    So, good for the Hispanics, for understanding what is as plain as the nose on your face: The GOP/Tea Party has no intention of doing anything for you and your families. Let's hope that the GOP's effort after losing the last election - to try to find a new way to spin their message of racism and hate - does not work, that the Hispanics can see through the sham.

    Steve Garcia

    1. " What does fertility rate mean, anyway?"

      I found this:
      The total fertility rate (TFR), sometimes also called the fertility rate, period total fertility rate (PTFR) or total period fertility rate (TPFR) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime if she were to experience the exact current age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) through her lifetime, and she were to survive from birth through the end of her reproductive life. It is obtained by summing the single-year age-specific rates at a given time.

      (I don't know if that's how it was calculated at the source).


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