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"Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State"
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April 23, 2009, 03:17 AM
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I`m participating this week in an online discussion at the Talking Points Memo Cafe Book Club on political scientist (and statistics wizard) Andrew Gelman`s 2008 book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.

You can read my first contribution here. Here`s an excerpt from mine:

As a little thought experiment, imagine two sisters who are completely typical except that they are identical twins: with the same nature and nurture. They graduate from college together with degrees in business administration, but then they have to split up for the first time in their lives because one twin gets a job in downtown San Francisco while the other gets a job in downtown Dallas.

Ten years later, when they are 32, which twin is more likely to be a home-owning, married, stay-at-home mom?

Common sense and Census statistics suggest that the twin who got the job in Dallas is likely to take a more conservatively-inclined path through life. Middle class Americans today tend to get married when they are ready to buy a home and have children.

That houses are so much more affordable in the Dallas metropolitan area than in the San Francisco Bay region is one reason why non-Hispanic white women in Texas averaged 15.2 years of marriage between ages 18 and 44 in the 2000 Census, compared to 12.5 years for their counterparts in California.

And why is housing so much cheaper around Dallas than around San Francisco? There are many reasons, but a fundamental one is topographic: San Francisco is surrounded by saltwater and mountains, while Dallas is surrounded by flat dirt. There is simply a greater supply of land around an inland city than around a coastal city, so, ceteris paribus, the former`s homes will be cheaper.