Affordable Family Formation--The Neglected Key To GOP's Future

Now that the triumphalism rampant within the GOP after last November's election has died down, and Republicans realize that their current ascendancy is not a historical inevitability but a tenuous margin that needs careful cultivating, it's time to review the fundamental factors making some states red (Republican) and others blue (Democratic).

The key reason why some states vote Republican, I've found, can be summed up in the three-word phrase:

Affordable Family Formation.

In parts of the country where it is economical to buy a house with a yard in a neighborhood with a decent public school, you'll generally find more Republicans.

You’ll find less in regions where it's expensive.

It's a stereotype that a mortgage, marriage, and babies tend to make people more conservative.

But it's a true stereotype.

The arrow of causality points in both directions. Some family-oriented people move to family-friendly states, but the cost of forming a family also affects how many families are formed overall.

That's why it's in the GOP's self-interest to pursue policies that keep demand for housing down (such as limiting immigration) and the quality of public schooling up (such as, well, limiting immigration).

The culture wars between Red States and Blue States (i.e Conservative and Liberal, in the perverse contemporary parlance) are driven in large part by objective differences in how family-friendly they are, financially speaking.

Places that are terribly costly in which to raise children, such as Manhattan and San Francisco, unsurprisingly possess less family-friendly cultures than more reasonably priced locales, such as Nashville and Provo.

According to Google, nobody in the history of the Web has ever uttered the phrase "Affordable Family Formation."

So I utter it now:

Affordable Family Formation.

Those three words work both as a hard-headed summary of what drives voting, and as an appealing campaign theme.

The GOP could say to voters:

"We're on the side of making it affordable for you, and your children and grandchildren, to form families. The Democrats are on the side of dying alone."

Of course, Republicans could hardly say that with a straight face as long as their President refuses to repudiate his Open Borders plan. That would allow anyone in the world with a minimum wage job offer from an American employer to move here.

Four interlocking reasons form a chain of causality explaining why Affordable Family Formation paints the electoral map red.

I call them the Four Gaps: the Dirt Gap, the Mortgage Gap, the Marriage Gap, and the Baby Gap.

I wrote about each of them in VDARE.com and The American Conservative following the election.

But, unfortunately, I discovered them in reverse order of fundamentality.

This time, however, we'll start from the ground up:

1. The Dirt Gap: Blue State metropolises, such as Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles, tend to be on oceans or Great Lakes. Their suburban expansion is permanently limited to their landward sides. In contrast, Red State metropolises, such as Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix, are mostly inland. Thus they tend to be surrounded almost completely by dirt—allowing their suburbs to spread out over virtually 360 degrees. The supply of suburban land available for development is dramatically larger in Red State cities.

2. The Mortgage Gap: The Dirt Gap directly drives the Mortgage Gap. As the Law of Supply and Demand dictates, the limited availability of suburban dirt in most Blue States means housing costs more.

Of course, Blue State cities are also more likely to use environmental and other restrictions on housing to restrict supply artificially. Portland, an inland metropolis, is famous for outlawing development of adjoining land, thereby inflating housing prices and shrinking fertility, as reported in Timothy Egan's March 24, 2005 New York Times article on Portland, "Vibrant Cities Find One Thing Missing: Children."

According to the data gathered by the nonprofit organization ACCRA, which measures cost of living so corporations can fairly adjust the salaries of employees they relocate, Bush carried the 20 states with the cheapest housing costs, while Kerry won the 9 states with the most expensive.

(For statheads, the amount of variation "accounted for" by the correlation between housing cheapness and Bush's share of the vote was quite large: the r-squared =  46 percent of the total variation in the data.)

The states with the cheapest housing are Mississippi (where Bush won an extraordinary 85 percent of the white vote), Arkansas (homestate of Bill Clinton but now solidly Republican) and the GOP's anchor state of Texas.

The most expensive housing is now found in—guess!—California!!!

California was once the bastion of Phillips-coalition Republicanism, but, although GOP Presidential candidates carried California nine out of ten times from 1952 through 1988, they haven't come close since.

Next are Hawaii and the District of Columbia (where Bush won only nine percent).

The Mortgage Gap has been growing. Bush was victorious in the 26 states with the least home price inflation since 1980. Kerry triumphed in the 14 states with the most (according to the invaluable Laboratory of the States website).

Home prices rose fastest in Kerry's Massachusetts (515 percent) and second slowest in Bush's Texas (89 percent). The correlation between low housing inflation and Bush's share was strong: r-squared = 52 percent.

Despite the explanatory power of the Dirt Gap and the Mortgage Gap, these concepts have not been widely discussed.

The problem limiting their popularity may be that they are too objective, too morally neutral.

What people want to hear instead are explanations for why they, personally, are ethically and culturally better than their enemies.

3. The Marriage Gap: As I first reported in VDARE.COM last December, the single best correlation with Bush's share of the vote by state that anybody has yet found is: the average years married by white women between age 18 and 44: an astonishing r-squared = 83 percent.

(This has to be one of the highest r-squareds for a single unexpected factor ever seen in political science.)

Bush carried the top 25 states ranked on "years married."

For example, white women in Utah, where Bush had his best showing with 71 percent of the total vote, led the nation by being married an average of 17.0 years during those 27 years from age 18 through 44.

In contrast, in Washington D.C., where Bush only took 9 percent, the average white woman is married only 7.4 years.

In Massachusetts, where Bush won merely 37 percent, her years married average just 12.2.

Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg confirmed the partisan power of the Marriage Gap in January, reporting:

"The marriage gap is one of the most important cleavages in electoral politics… The marriage gap is a defining dynamic in today’s politics, eclipsing the gender gap, with marital status a significant predictor of the vote, independent of the effects of age, race, income, education or gender."

According to Greenberg, the exit poll showed 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.

Although there are profound cultural differences among states, the Marriage Gap among whites is driven to a striking extent by the Mortgage Gap.

The cost-of-housing index correlates with "years married" with an r-squared = 53 percent. Similarly, the housing inflation rate since 1980 and "years married" correlate at r-squared = 48 percent.

A five-year long study of 162 white, black, and Hispanic single mothers in Philadelphia has put a human face on the relationship between the Mortgage Gap and the Marriage Gap.

Sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, authors of Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage, wrote an essay in the Washington Post (May 1, 2005) entitled "Unmarried Because They Value Marriage."  

"What we discovered was surprising: Instead of a rejection of marriage, we found a deep respect for it among many young mothers, who told us that getting married was their ultimate life ambition. While they acknowledge that putting children before marriage is not the ideal way of doing things, they're not about to risk going through life childless while waiting for Mr. Right. … Marriage, we heard time and again, ought to be reserved for those couples who've acquired the symbols of working-class respectability—a mortgage on a modest rowhouse, a reliable car, a savings account and enough money left over to host a 'decent' wedding."

Women in higher social classes are more likely to avoid the disasters of giving birth out of wedlock.

But they often postpone marriage and/or children until they can afford the down payment on a house in a neighborhood with good public schools.

And that leads to:

4. The Baby Gap:  Bush carried 25 of the top 26 states in white total fertility (number of babies per white woman), while Kerry was victorious in the bottom 16. In Utah, for instance, white women average 2.45 babies. In the District of Columbia, white women average only 1.11 babies.

The correlation between white total fertility and Bush's share produced an impressive r-squared = 74 percent.

While the Marriage Gap appeared to be somewhat more important than the Baby Gap, together they proved extraordinarily powerful in explaining Bush's performance—their combined r-squared = 88 percent.

(Ethan Herdrick's Mapinator website graphically illustrates the strong correlations between Bush's performance and the Mortgage Gap, Marriage Gap, and Baby Gap.)

The voting patterns of both blacks and Hispanics are also somewhat affected by these factors. But both groups are shifted toward the Democrats.

This points out a little-understood problem with the much-publicized GOP Establishment hopes of Republicanizing Hispanics while simultaneously keeping the immigration floodgates open.

The contradiction is that immigration increases the population density, which raises land prices, which both makes non-Hispanic whites more Democratic and discourages those Hispanics who successfully assimilate to the norms of local non-Hispanic whites from becoming as Republican.

Formerly Republican California supplies the classic example of both processes at work.

Non-Hispanic whites became sharply less Republican as their marriage and fertility rates plummeted.

Back in 1990, California still had a higher white fertility rate than Texas. But during the Nineties the birthrate for California white women dropped 14 percent and their years married plummeted to the third lowest in America, behind only ultra-liberal DC and Massachusetts.

In Texas, however, which has much more available dirt and only about half as many immigrants as a percentage of the total population, white fertility rose 4 percent.

Texas, which voted Democratic in four out of five Presidential elections from 1960 through 1976, is now the mainstay of the GOP.

Meanwhile, those California Hispanics who succeed in assimilating fully now find themselves in a state where most role models vote for Democrats for President.

So, Hispanics in California have stayed well to the left of Hispanics in Texas—where the white elite is fervently Republican.

The same thing has happened to Asian-Americans, who tend to cluster in crowded Blue States.

Although the Democrats captured only 30 percent of their vote in 1992, they've won near landslides in recent elections.

Demographic analyst Arthur Hu suggests that voting patterns show that Asian Americans traditionally vote slightly more conservatively than their neighbors do—exactly as optimistic Republicans assume.

The problem for the GOP, however, is that Asians tend to have highly liberal white neighbors.

In 2000, 45% of all Asian-born immigrants lived in three heavily Democratic metropolitan areas: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City.

Because of the dual effects on the voting of both whites and immigrants, the spread of immigrants into the middle of the country puts once-solid Republican states into play.

Not only Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado are threatened, but, farther down the road, some states in the now seemingly Solid South, such as Georgia and North Carolina, will be up for grabs.

Considering the narrowness of Bush's victory in the Electoral College, this ought to motivate Republicans to drop their invite-the-world delusion and start promoting Affordable Family Formation for American citizens.

But there’s no sign of it yet.

Why not?

[Steve Sailer [email him], is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.com features site-exclusive commentaries.]