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If red and blue America seemed to be talking past one another about family values, it's because they were.
May 4, 2010 8:17 AM   Subscribe

"In red America, families form adults; in blue America, adults form families." Do liberal and conservative states operate with different conceptions (*cough*) of family?

previously and previouslier
posted by Bromius (85 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think it's kind of silly and divisive to get into these conversations, but there definitely does seem to be a cultural divide already. I mean, consider that the term "family values" has come to mean "no gay adoption" in political parlance, when to me it intuitively means "help adults learn to be good parents and, if necessary, provide them with the resources to do so."
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:26 AM on May 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


If there were a statistical measure for delayed maturity, I suspect we'd be having a very different discussion about what goes on in the blue states.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:26 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or, if I wanted to be more clever, I'd say that it was yet another article of "Democrats walk like this, while Republicans walk like this."
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:27 AM on May 4, 2010


The whole article isn't as simplistic as the one-sentence sum-up. It seems like a pretty good analysis to me.
posted by amethysts at 8:28 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Red people are all like .... BUT BLUE people? Blue people are all like ... AMIRITE?

This is less about politics than it is about where the money's at, as always.
posted by drpynchon at 8:28 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with amethysts, there's a lot more to it than the one sentence sum-up. And needless to say, I think they've hit the nail on the head.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:30 AM on May 4, 2010


This is hypothesis is testable with publicly-available data (I'm thinking vital statistics database and primary voting records). Jonathan Rauch did not test the hypothesis.
posted by The White Hat at 8:34 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jonathan Rauch did not test the hypothesis.

But it is entirely possible that the book that he's writing about did. It seems like he did a good job summing up the salient points, and I'd be interested to read the primary source.
posted by gaspode at 8:36 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh come on, did you guys even read the article before launching into your 'Dems do this while Reps do *this*'? The author actually laid out some reasoning behind his ideas and it'd be nice if you read it before just popping in with a "witty" comment.

That being said, I thought he made some valid points and when you download the paper it's based on it's actually kinda cool. It goes a lot deeper than Republicans think *this* and Democrats think *this*, therefore X is true, it shows actual people they interviewed and their thought processes and life stories. Thanks for posting this Bromius.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:40 AM on May 4, 2010 [15 favorites]


The country's lowest divorce rate belongs to none other than Massachusetts, the original home of same-sex marriage.

WOO-HOO!!! Go, us!

States that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in both 2004 and 2008 boast lower average rates of divorce and teenage childbirth than do states that voted for the Republican in both elections. (That is using family data for 2006 and 2007, the latest available.)

Birth control and sex education, it works!
posted by zizzle at 8:44 AM on May 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


It makes good points, although, like others said, it's still a sweeping brush to paint whole regions by. It also reminds me, I probably read it here on the Blue, but this description of the dichotomy of red-vs-blue sex: liberal/blue say, here's more information than you'll ever need, you do what you want, there's ways to fix things if you make mistakes, but you're on your own if you do screw up; conservative/blue say, here's the one way you do it, don't mess it up, but if you do make a mistake, your family and society will help you cover it up and/or force it to work anyway.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:45 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The disconnect between the claimed morality of the far right and the behavior of the far right has always seemed to be obvious. This article puts some bite to the observation.
posted by HuronBob at 8:46 AM on May 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


The Red States would do just fine if we followed the Bible and outlawed divorce.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:47 AM on May 4, 2010


I'm going to call bullshit on this. It's not that I disagree that political values are correlated with values regarding families. I disagree that reducing these discussions to a nominal variable that can change with each new election season is the best way to go about it. We have precinct-by-precinct vote records. We can do geographically targeted polling and research.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:48 AM on May 4, 2010


I've been trying to figure out what bothers me about the line of thinking I think underlies this, and I think I finally have. It's fairly obvious that getting married in your teens is a bad idea - teenage marriages are associated with significantly higher divorce rates, etc. But your early 20s? Only a third of Americans finish undergraduate, let alone contemplate and complete graduate studies. If we're asking the vast swath of our society to achieve either an undergraduate degree or some college, then go into a dull, dreary, unstable workforce, is it fair to also ask them to delay having a family too? Can it really be true that people who are sexually mature, successfully complete 17 years of school and work to support themselves still aren't adults?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:49 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought his article was a little down on the red states (omg, did I really just say that!?) so I grabbed this from the paper he based his article on to even it out a bit:

Both family models have problems. The blue states have unprecedented numbers who will never marry, falling fertility rates and considerable concern about the lack of commitment within intimate relationships. Moreover, their largest challenge may be the inequality the system produces between the children who enjoy the advantages of intact, two income families and those of the increasingly marginalized poor. Red state families, however, are in crisis on their own terms. Although voters in red states care profoundly about morality and marriage, red states have the highest divorce rates in the country. Although red states have the lowest abortion rates, their teens are also more likely to become pregnant and to give birth to children the parents are illequipped to raise. Red states are poorer and the resources available to cushion the consequences of family fragility may be dramatically less. Given the inherent difficulties of controlling sexual behavior and the atrophy of the social forces that historically stigmatized non-marital births and coerced unhappy couples to stay together, the red states must either increase their efforts to reinstill the right values or give up the fight.They have accordingly sounded a call to arms.

pg. 3-4 of the .pdf
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:50 AM on May 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


From an interview with the authors of the book:

SOLOVE: What are the most central ideas of the book?

CARBONE & CAHN: There really are two family systems , and one is in crisis while the other is doing reasonably well. The “blue” one invests in women as well as men, delays family formation until after young adults reach emotional maturity and financial independence, and views sexuality as a private matter. The “red” system is a traditional one that continues to preach abstinence, early marriage, and more traditional gender roles. The blue system arose in response to the needs of the post-industrial economy while the religious backlash against the new values has locked red families into a war against modernity.

The two systems map onto increasingly ideological divisions in American politics, and make family a point of intense contestation.

The conflict between the two systems produces counterproductive results, such as abstinence education that has the most disproportionate consequences for poor women.

The solution is to reforge values at the state and local level while keeping the pathways (e.g., access to contraception) open through national efforts.

posted by donovan at 8:53 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


What I think is interesting is that the article ties in educational achievement and economic opportunity, and the differences really become more stark. It does logically follow that choosing the "Red" family model would tend to limit access to those resources. But what's interesting is what is going unsaid (at least in the article, perhaps it's expounded upon in the book): a growing portion of the conservative movement is actively against access to public education, while another portion credits economic success almost entirely to a Propsperity God. Some overlap, of course, between the two groups. And both of these philosophies has been gaining momentum over the last 5 to 10 years. It's almost as though there's a deliberate movement on to handicap future generations with ignorance.
posted by contessa at 8:55 AM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


The disconnect between the claimed morality of the far right and the behavior of the far right...

The Right confuses being moralistic with being moral. (This also explains the common objection to atheism of "but why will people be moral if there's no threat of hell/promise of heaven?")
posted by DU at 8:55 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


iIf we're asking the vast swath of our society to achieve either an undergraduate degree or some college, then go into a dull, dreary, unstable workforce, is it fair to also ask them to delay having a family too? Can it really be true that people who are sexually mature, successfully complete 17 years of school and work to support themselves still aren't adults?

So having a family is a concession prize for having a boring job and not completing higher education? That's exactly what the differentiation is: one group believes that being financially and socially stable is what you need before you have kids, while the other thinks that having children, marriages, and other responsibilities will force stability.

If your job is a boring-yet-unstable cubeville, wouldn't you want to work for a few years to get to a slightly more stable or interesting position? I've seen people who worry about whether they're going to have their crappy call center job next week come into work bleary-eyed because the baby was crying all night. Having kids can still be an excellent thing, but I'm not quite interested in that kind of situation.
posted by mikeh at 8:55 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this neatly explains why social conservatives are so concerned with legislating "family values." Their historical system of family creation is breaking down, so they think they need government rules and regulations to support it. Meanwhile, global culture is trending toward the socially liberal family model, so many liberals see no need for the government to get involved in their personal lives.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:55 AM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is similar to a moral values hypothesis that George Lakoff frequently refers to. His red/blue binary is conservative/liberal, and the moral values he ascribes to them respectively are: Strict Father (think Dick Cheney or Maggie Thatcher) and Nurturing Parent (Barack Obama currently, I would suppose). Of course, he knows that it is not as simply reductionist as that, but it is so apparent in the way that arguments are framed in America.

And never the twain shall meet.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:56 AM on May 4, 2010


I disagree that reducing these discussions to a nominal variable that can change with each new election season is the best way to go about it. We have precinct-by-precinct vote records. We can do geographically targeted polling and research.

I don't think Red V Blue is really the primary variable that they are using. Rather, they're looking at parents' age for first child, divorce rates, personal stories, and many other cultural influences that - broadly - do align with the conservative/liberal geographic divide.
posted by Think_Long at 8:57 AM on May 4, 2010


(This also explains the common objection to atheism of "but why will people be moral if there's no threat of hell/promise of heaven?")

Which even Kant, the most moralizing of all moral thinkers, correctly identified as prudential but certainly not moral concerns. If the only reason you do what is right is to avoid punishment or in the hope of reward, you are little better (morally speaking) than a trained dog. Or an infant.

posted by joe lisboa at 8:58 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh come on, did you guys even read the article before launching into your 'Dems do this while Reps do *this*'? The author actually laid out some reasoning behind his ideas and it'd be nice if you read it before just popping in with a "witty" comment.

a) MY witty comment was directed at the FPP more than the article.

b) While I don't doubt that there are net cultural differences along some geographical lines, I read the link, and parts of the article. To me it screams ecological fallacy and confounding. Laying out reasoning and having ideas is not evidence. To wit, this troubling bit of non-sense from the authors:

"We have not used regression analyses to control for income (blue states are wealthier), religion (Baptists dominate in much of the south, Lutherans in the upper mid-west, etc.), rural v. urban living or ethnicity to any comprehensive degree. In addition, while we believe that these data show striking regional variations in consequences – divorce rates, fertility, and non-marital birth rates – we believe that any normative assessment of consequences does require regression analyses that control for income, race and ethnicity, and economic opportunity."

Can I get a big huh?
posted by drpynchon at 9:04 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


If your job is a boring-yet-unstable cubeville, wouldn't you want to work for a few years to get to a slightly more stable or interesting position?

I don't know. I suspect some people would, or some wouldn't. Still, having a family and getting a promotion aren't mutually exclusive. Further, I'm not willing to blanket condemn anyone who feels the instinct to start a family in their early 20s, whether that instinct is biological or social or whatever. Having a family isn't a concession prize, but you can't expect people who are unfulfilled intellectually or occupationally to find fulfillment by working their ass off for an employer they don't care about.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:07 AM on May 4, 2010


I'd be more interested in a study that focused on the outliers, to be honest: The red state areas with higher marriage rates, the college-educated youth from good schools who have kids early, and the childless pro-lifers.

Then again, that might take a heck of a lot of digging, research-wise.
posted by mikeh at 9:08 AM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


l33tpolicywonk, I completely get where you're coming from, but your original comment about "maturity" rubbed me the wrong way. I think the very definition of maturity is the primary difference between these approaches. I would imagine that a fair portion of the later marriage and childbirth segment would find it immature to have kids at a younger age, due to the economic uncertainty and relative lack of means. Meanwhile, the other side believes that you're not going to be a mature adult until you have a wedding and a kid.

It's pretty obvious that I fall toward the supposed liberal camp here, but I think both approaches can work well. But again, "maturity" is a really loaded term.
posted by mikeh at 9:12 AM on May 4, 2010


This is hypothesis is testable with publicly-available data (I'm thinking vital statistics database and primary voting records). Jonathan Rauch did not test the hypothesis.

This is why liberals can't have nice things.

The "simplistic" one sentence summation is actually a piece of rhetorical dynamite—it's pithy, easy to remember, and has a nice ring of anecdotal truthiness to it. But the hypothesis hasn't been tested, subjected to a series of double-blind studies, and the results published in a peer-reviewed journal, so it inevitably ends up on the rejects pile.

Whereas, give a right-winger a slogan like "HCR = Death Panels", "Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve", or "Where's the Birth Certificate?" and they'll embrace it like the Scriptures, repeat it like a mantra, and run with it until it loses all traction, facts be damned.

And because of this, the language of the right has become the lingua franca of our mainstream political discourse.

But at least we progressives can pride ourselves on not having hubris, I guess.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:12 AM on May 4, 2010 [33 favorites]


We have not used regression analyses to control for income (blue states are wealthier), religion (Baptists dominate in much of the south, Lutherans in the upper mid-west, etc.), rural v. urban living or ethnicity to any comprehensive degree. In addition, while we believe that these data show striking regional variations in consequences – divorce rates, fertility, and non-marital birth rates – we believe that any normative assessment of consequences does require regression analyses that control for income, race and ethnicity, and economic opportunity

Huh, I missed that part – I guess my previous comment should be ignored. Are these variables correlated to political persuasion? Is it acceptable to say that wealthier, thus more educated, individuals vote more liberal? Or vice versa?
posted by Think_Long at 9:13 AM on May 4, 2010


To be fair, the Reds do have an edge on the Blue in the Lantern department.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:16 AM on May 4, 2010


If your job is a boring-yet-unstable cubeville, wouldn't you want to work for a few years to get to a slightly more stable or interesting position?

If creating a family is the definition of being an adult, people aren't going to stop and think about the perfect time to have one, they're going to want to have that marker of adulthood.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:16 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm going to stop flooding the thread after this, I swear, but one more point. This really reminds me of the battle over healthcare: one side wants healthcare available no matter what, and will readily lobby for universal healthcare at a higher cost, even if they current have healthcare through their jobs. Others believe that healthcare insurance costs should be a choice, and that individuals should have to shoulder the burden if something bad happens, even if that means taking on large amounts of debt.

Again, there's a large continuum of belief between, but the "plan for the most trying case" crowd versus the "shoulder whatever burden may come up" crowds seem to be aligned.
posted by mikeh at 9:16 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


States that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in both 2004 and 2008 boast lower average rates of divorce and teenage childbirth than do states that voted for the Republican in both elections.

This irritates me because it is a perfect example of using statistics to mislead.

Before I will accept the statistical assertion, I want to know how divorce rates compare to overall marriage rate in the given state populations, and I want to know how teenage childbirth compares to teenage abortion rates in those same populations.

I posit that divorce rates are lowest in the bluest states because there is less societal pressure against cohabitation, and that teenage childbirth rates are lowest because there is less social stigma attached to abortion. This article goes on to say as much, but it has no problem leading with fuzzy statistical correlations.
posted by jefficator at 9:17 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the very definition of maturity is the primary difference between these approaches.

I agree. My concern is that defining maturity either way, in categorical terms related to age or accomplishment, is unnecessarily and harmfully reductive. There are some 20 year olds that are far more emotionally capable of supporting a family than some 30 or even some 40 year olds. There are also some 20 year olds that are equally capable of experiencing the same altruistic feelings that lead 30 and 40 year olds to start families. Demeaning those young people's choices out of hand because of their age is the opposite of tolerance. I don't think you're doing that, but I'm concerned this line of argument may assume that. The suggestion that someone should earn X amount of money or have achieved X amount of education before they have a child also suggests that poor or undereducated people of any age shouldn't have children, an argument which is self-evidently dangerous. The liberal / progressive approach, it seems to me, should be to enable anyone to live out their concept of their place in the world, no matter how they see it, in economic stability and social tolerance. That promise should be as much for young and old, black and white, gay and straight and with children or without, in any and all combinations of the above.

Access to birth control is still ample in red states. If a legal adult chooses to get married and have a child, who am I to judge?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:31 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing the analysis leaves out is that by and large, most conservative political leaders and pundits as well as most conservative/Republican/Red State wealthy folk and major business owners/leaders have for the last several decades followed what these authors are describing as the "Blue State Family Formation" trend.

Good luck finding more than a few token members of the entire U.S. power elite across the political spectrum who married and started reproducing by age 20-25.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:33 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


But your early 20s? Can it really be true that people who are sexually mature, successfully complete 17 years of school and work to support themselves still aren't adults?

Yes.

My "evidence" is all anecdotal, but I come from an over-educated background. All my friends went to college, and about half of them got advanced degrees. Within that group, I've seen totally different outcomes from those who married in their 20s and those who waited longer.

I'd say 90% of my friends who married in their twenties wound up either divorced or in miserable marriages. Most of them are divorced, working on marriage two or three. Close to 100% of my friends who waited until their 30s are happily married in stable relationships.

I think the problem is that college is not "the real world." So if someone gets out of college at, say, 22 and then gets married at 23 or 24, he hasn't spent much time as an adult. He probably is still at a very unstable point in his career; he's probably still "finding himself," he hasn't spent that many years living away from his parents, etc.

Folks in their 30s have been around the block a few times. They are much more confident and well entrenched in careers. They are not interested in proving that they are grown up.

These are generalizations, of course, but I'm SO thankful that I didn't get married until I was 29. Given the chance, I might have done so earlier. I thought I was ready. I wasn't. But even from the vantage point of my 40s, I can now look back at my 29-year-old self and see that he wasn't fooling himself. He really was ready. He had been out in the career world for several years; he had lived away from his parents for a decade; he had firm likes, dislikes, convictions, etc.
posted by grumblebee at 9:35 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


One problem I have with these statistics when people tout them is that in blue states, where living together and "shacking up" (to use a red state term), carry no stigma, where in red states they probably still do in a lot of places.

So you see the problem. The 'successful marriages" of Massachusetts obviously won't include all those cohabitations that ended up in slammed doors, shouting, and tears. Meaning the marriages that made it to the altar have been sort of skewed for success. The potential shitty marriages never made it to be counted. If you tally marriage + living together for both red & blue states will there be a smaller difference? I'll bet you there would be.

The out-of-wedlock birth statistics aren't as obviously flawed though.
posted by xetere at 9:40 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Who are you to judge? Well, you could be a teacher, a neighbor, a relative who helps take care of kids, or a volunteer at a community organization. Anyone who deals with kids and families, and has experienced firsthand what seems to work and what doesn't.

People of all ages have always had the ability to do a mediocre job raising kids. I think the main point of the article is that the traditional controls for this -- the stigma of divorce and necessity of marriage when you had a kid, the inability for women to readily work outside the home when they have kids, and

I've seen a lot of young families, some with single parents, do really well. But they're extended families, not necessarily with just blood relatives but with other parents and families in the same boat. It's definitely viable, although the social framework isn't as well-established so it's more difficult.
posted by mikeh at 9:40 AM on May 4, 2010


Huh, I missed that part – I guess my previous comment should be ignored. Are these variables correlated to political persuasion? Is it acceptable to say that wealthier, thus more educated, individuals vote more liberal? Or vice versa?

Most likely, and for sure on an ecological level. Take a look at per capita income for example. Here are the top 10 states as of 2006: California, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, DC. The 10 states with lowest per capita income? Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Utah, Kentucky, South Carolina, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Alabama. Hmm.

The trouble is that the relationship is quite likely to be complex (non-linear and involving interaction terms with socioreligious variables) on a per person level. A careful and robust statistical approach would be more informative than the effort made here.
posted by drpynchon at 9:40 AM on May 4, 2010


grumblebee: I think the problem is that college is not "the real world." So if someone gets out of college at, say, 22 and then gets married at 23 or 24, he hasn't spent much time as an adult. He probably is still at a very unstable point in his career; he's probably still "finding himself," he hasn't spent that many years living away from his parents, etc.

This is where I find the contradiction in the argument implied by the article, if not the paper: college is not the real world, therefore people who go to college aren't prepared to get married. Yet people who don't go to college, who live and work in the real world, are even less prepared to get married.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:47 AM on May 4, 2010


Interesting article. Worth reading.
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on May 4, 2010


Red State Americans are the future serfs of Blue State Americans.

Also, you putzes got the colours backwards. Everywhere else in the world, the Blues are conservative. Damn fools.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:49 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is it acceptable to say that wealthier, thus more educated, individuals vote more liberal? Or vice versa?

If you will allow "Democratic" as a proxy for "liberal," low-income voters are dramatically more liberal and than any other income bracket, the self-serving Real America narrative of the Palin right notwithstanding.
posted by enn at 9:52 AM on May 4, 2010


mikeh: I think the main point of the article is that the traditional controls for this

Right. The essence of your argument is that some parents are good and some parents are bad. One of the disadvantages of living in a free society is the inability to prevent bad outcomes that are theoretically solved by behaviorist societies. I think the true distinction between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives (attempt to) use tradition to mitigate bad outcomes and liberals (attempt to) use a social safety net to mitigate bad outcomes. That would have been a lot more interesting article.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:52 AM on May 4, 2010


If you tally marriage + living together for both red & blue states will there be a smaller difference? I'll bet you there would be.

Yes, but are those cohabitatators having kids? Sharing finances and property? Probably not nearly so much as in the shotgun-wedding places. Couples break up all the time, but the consequences of those break ups are astronomically higher if there are kids and money involved.
posted by paanta at 9:54 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, you putzes got the colours backwards. Everywhere else in the world, the Blues are conservative. Damn fools.

Aaah but you see it is a devious plot by the International "reds" to get, US so-called, red staters habituated to the red commie flag. Better to impose socialism. When the republicans won the Massachusetts senate seat, Sarah Palin was reported to shout in glee, "The east is red!"
posted by xetere at 9:54 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is where I find the contradiction in the argument implied by the article, if not the paper: college is not the real world, therefore people who go to college aren't prepared to get married. Yet people who don't go to college, who live and work in the real world, are even less prepared to get married.

Most people who are 18 should not get married (if they want a successful marriage).

Most people just out of college shouldn't get married, either.

I don't think we have a huge group of people who don't go to college -- and yet who, after leaving home at 18 -- wait until they are 25 to get married and have kids. But I'm betting that such people would be about as successful as folks who DO go to college and wait until their 30s.
posted by grumblebee at 9:56 AM on May 4, 2010


What I wish is that we encouraged young people to be self-sufficient for five years before marrying. College is a non-issue. But don't go from mommy-and-daddy (or from surrogate mommy-and-daddy -- a.k.a. professors) straight into marriage.
posted by grumblebee at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you will allow "Democratic" as a proxy for "liberal," low-income voters are dramatically more liberal and than any other income bracket, the self-serving Real America narrative of the Palin right notwithstanding.

The way this paradox is resolved whereby low incomes make you more likely to vote Democratic but "blue states" are the wealthiest is that you end up voting your economic interests relative to your neighbors. In Mississippi, a white middle manager of a retail store is going to vote Republican because he believes himself to be in the upper economic tier of society and he can disassociate himself from the absolutely destitute in the rest of his state. On the other hand, if you live in southern connecticut, your $80,000/yr income is going to feel pretty middle class compared to all the wealthy financiers and corporate lawyers surrounding you who are all voting Republican, and you're going to lean heavily Democratic out of self-interest.
posted by deanc at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2010


I posit that... teenage childbirth rates are lowest [in blue states] because there is less social stigma attached to abortion.

You'd be incorrect.

Teenagers in liberal-leaning areas become pregnant at significantly lower rates than in red states (regardless of the outcome of that pregnancy), possibly because of access to, acceptance of, and education about contraception. Of those who do get pregnant, you are correct that they are then more likely to terminate the pregnancy than a red state teenager in similar straights... but they are also less likely to find themselves in that situation -- partially because they are much more likely to use contraception. (See Guttmacher Institute's data on this)

I looked for, but didn't immediately find the study that concluded that students who participated in abstinence-only sexual education classes, were only slightly more likely to delay sex, but were much less likely to use condoms or other forms of birth control. The results of that behavior are predictable.
posted by toxic at 9:59 AM on May 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


l33tpolicywonk: “Can it really be true that people who are sexually mature, successfully complete 17 years of school and work to support themselves still aren't adults?

It's not just a question of "being an adult" in the sense of emotional maturity, it's also a question of financial independence and security. There are lots of people who feel like they'd do an okay job of parenting but aren't where they want to be financially, and feel as though they'll be able to provide a better lifestyle by waiting (and presumably having two incomes, or going for additional education) for a few years.

Also, setting aside the financial issue, I'm not sure you can ignore how much social pressures shape what people "want." Someone living in an environment where it's expected and there is a lot of social pressure to have a kid or three before age 25 might think that's what they want most in the world, but an identical person who lives in a different environment, where having a kid before you have their college fund put away is seen as gross irresponsibility if not outright negligence, might view pregnancy at 25 as a disaster. Wants and goals are not formed in a vacuum.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:01 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


The 'successful marriages" of Massachusetts obviously won't include all those cohabitations that ended up in slammed doors, shouting, and tears. Meaning the marriages that made it to the altar have been sort of skewed for success. The potential shitty marriages never made it to be counted. If you tally marriage + living together for both red & blue states will there be a smaller difference? I'll bet you there would be.

That may well be. But by and large, those unsuccessful, unhappy Blue State cohabitations will also not involve people having babies. I have no problem with people shacking up and realizing it's a bad match, and then going on to make better choices in life partners before bringing children into the equation. On the whole, I'd argue that is a net good.
posted by ambrosia at 10:01 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Admittedly, there are a lot of problems with college culture that perpetuate in my view a delayed maturity. I made the mistake at the top of the thread of implying that I wanted to dictate my view of maturity, where I really meant to argue that all kinds of concepts of maturity should be respected. Consider the 35% of students who go to college part-time, plus the 16% who alternate between full-time and part-time. 85 percent of them are employed while going to college. Do they live in the real world, as least inasmuch as they have the ability to successfully pick a mate?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:02 AM on May 4, 2010


Wants and goals are not formed in a vacuum.

As long as we acknowledge that neither red states nor blue states are vacuums as far as social influences on wants and goals are concerned, I totally agree with you.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:04 AM on May 4, 2010


I'm not sure I agree with this. I think cultural conservatism is correlated with poverty. I think divorce and teen marraige are correlated with poverty. Red states are poorer than blue states, and more importantly they have more poverty than blue states. I'd like if my sort of philosophy was vindicated and what I believed was responsible for better outcomes and people who believed differently were just being hypocrits I just don't think it's the case. I think poverty makes everything harder. I think it makes it harder to maintain long term healthy relationships. I think in much the same way that women who are very career oriented tend to delay having children, young women and girls who don't see careerr ambition as practical might be less likely to delay having children.

I think poor people are more religeous because we chose to play the status games we can win. When I was in highschool and sort of nerdy I looked down on the jocks because of the future status I would aquire with my intellect even though I had lower present status. Now that I am a not terribly material successful college graduate I chose to look down on the successful finance and law types for their lack of taste, their manners, differences in our values, a lack of richness in life, they don't even read I think to myself, they don't watch the right movies! Realistically they have more status and power than I've rigged my value system to create flattering a self conception. Piety is a game that anyone can win but because the reward is nebulous and arrives after death it is the game of last resort.
posted by I Foody at 10:10 AM on May 4, 2010 [21 favorites]


I think cultural conservatism is correlated with poverty.

As far as voting goes, you would be wrong.

But it's hard to say anything intelligent about income and politics since high income, being a male and voting conservative are all correlated, and that might skew the sample in weird ways if you are not careful.
posted by afu at 10:23 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


So the solution to many of the problems this country faces is nothing worse than more rigorous sex ed expectations and better use of contraceptives?

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't feel like an insurmountable obstacle.
posted by quin at 10:24 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ahh. I had to stop and woolgather contentedly for a moment at the thought of Democrats actually serving as proxies for liberals.
posted by Babblesort at 10:25 AM on May 4, 2010


one side wants healthcare available no matter what, and will readily lobby for universal healthcare at a higher cost...

What side was that?
posted by DU at 10:26 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I disagree that I'm wrong with a couple demographic cavaets:
1) Young people are poor and distinctly not culturally conservative but they're lifetime expected earning can be high or low. When I was in my first job out of college I was making less than a bus driver but I think comparing 21 year old me to a 40 year old bus driver would be less than enlightening.
2) Blacks and hispanics are poor and are culturally conservative, but vote democrat anyways because republicans are bad at concealing their contempt for minorities.
posted by I Foody at 10:29 AM on May 4, 2010


Red states aren't red, and blue states aren't blue, but the article's point is right on about how the people in mauve states are so much better than those bastards in magenta states.
posted by rocket88 at 10:32 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is why liberals can't have nice things...give a right-winger a slogan...and they'll embrace it like the Scriptures, repeat it like a mantra, and run with it until it loses all traction, facts be damned...But at least we progressives can pride ourselves on not having hubris, I guess.

Atom Eyes has identified a critical Stupidity Gap between conservatives and liberals, and raises the call to close the gap.

Liberals! We cannot allow conservatives to corner the market on stupid! We must study their stupidity, emulate it, and surpass it!
posted by straight at 10:35 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Failed right off the bat straight. I mean, seriously, you want to emulate stupidity by studying it?
posted by Babblesort at 10:48 AM on May 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


Most people who are 18 should not get married (if they want a successful marriage).

Most people just out of college shouldn't get married, either.


After a couple of challenging relationships with older women when I was in my early 20s, I decided that a lesbian's age should not be tabulated chronologically, but based on two other factors: how long since she came out; and whether she's had only one relationship since coming out (especially if she came out into that relationship). Because those are two times, coming out and leaving the first relationship, when, in my limited experience, lesbians do the work that adolescents normally do, of figuring out how to be in relationships, making dramatic romantic mistakes, getting involved with the wrong people, and all that kind of stuff.

I don't think we have a huge group of people who don't go to college -- and yet who, after leaving home at 18 -- wait until they are 25 to get married and have kids. But I'm betting that such people would be about as successful as folks who DO go to college and wait until their 30s.

My mom did this, and it amazes me. She left home immediately after high school graduation and became self-supporting. She was 16, this was 1949. She waited eight years to get married and another four to have her first child. She did it because she had a very clear vision of how she wanted her life to be, very different from her own upbringing among the working rural poor. She waited to marry until she found a man who shared her aspirations (my dad, fresh home from the Army and ready to go to college on the GI Bill), and then did her best to delay having children until she'd helped him through school, though my brother squeaked in under the wire during dad's last year of school.

When I think about the degree of maturity, foresight, and delayed gratification it took for my mom to do that, I'm in awe of her. God knows nobody taught her that, and nobody supported her in it. She figured it out for herself. Most people wouldn't have what it takes, including me. I remember being 16 and thinking, "Mom was living on her own, working a job, totally responsible for herself at this age? Holy cow."

She got her reward, though. She wanted a stable family life with no physical abuse. She wanted to be able to feed her kids, get them dental care, and buy them shoes. She wanted space to herself in her home, after growing up in a 2-bedroom house with a family of 8 stuffed into it and various relatives moving in for varying lengths of time. She got all that.
posted by not that girl at 11:18 AM on May 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


I think cultural conservatism is correlated with poverty.

I'd twist this a bit into an association between conservatism and the fear of poverty -- when you're already poor and always teetering on the brink of joblessness, homelessness, and going hungry, you vote for socialized medicine, welfare, housing assistance, etc; when you've never had to worry about job or savings or your home but poverty is looming on the horizon, you vote "this is my house, my health, my income, and I'll be damned if you take it away from me".
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


So the solution to many of the problems this country faces is nothing worse than more rigorous sex ed expectations and better use of contraceptives?

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't feel like an insurmountable obstacle.


You'd think

The birth control riddle--50 years after The Pill, 50% of pregancies are still unplanned.

Sex ed opponents, supporters clash at board meeting

I wish my sex ed class had taught technique. In fact, I wish we could have left the biology part to Biology class and focused solely on technique. If it were up to me, I'd put the "sexy" back in sex education. (This is why I will never be a teacher.)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:25 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


After a couple of challenging relationships with older women when I was in my early 20s, I decided that a lesbian's age should not be tabulated chronologically, but based on two other factors: how long since she came out; and whether she's had only one relationship since coming out (especially if she came out into that relationship).

That's an interesting insight; I think it likely applies to anyone (gay, transgender, fetishist, etc.) who "comes out." You wonder why new drag queens are so flamboyantly feminine--it's because they're going through their sexual adolescence X years later.

Anyway, I thought the article was interesting, at least in the analysis of the self-defeating feedback loop, where more unprotected sex leads to more unwanted pregnancies, which leads to more moralizing, less education ... and more unprotected sex, and so on.

Even the most devout overwhelmingly do not abstain until marriage

Bolded for emphasis and agreeance.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:31 AM on May 4, 2010


After a couple of challenging relationships with older women when I was in my early 20s

Note: these were older women who were into dating a girl in her 20s. This reminds me of straight women who date middle-aged men because they want someone "mature." This is a generalization, of course, but most middle-aged people who date 20-somethings are not mature people.

I am immature in plenty of ways, but I can't imagine ever dating a girl in her 20s. To me, that would feel like being with a child. I don't mean to offend 20-somethings, and I know and respect plenty of them. But we just don't have a lot in common. And I feel like I have the same lack of common ground with people my age (40s) who date much-younger people.
posted by grumblebee at 11:37 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Liberals! We cannot allow conservatives to corner the market on stupid! We must study their stupidity, emulate it, and surpass it!

I am educated stupid.
posted by beelzbubba at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2010


The blue system arose in response to the needs of the post-industrial economy capitalism while the religious backlash against the new values has locked red families into a war against modernity capitalism.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:05 PM on May 4, 2010


l33tpolicywonk: Access to birth control is still ample in red states.

Sadly, no. In my red state, there are issues that come up constantly with stores refusing to sell condoms without ID (!!!), having them available only behind a counter or in a locked cabinet. Or even the massive social stigma still attached to any form of birth control in rural areas which are a direct result of the lack of education (if you never learned what it is, or how to use it, odds are you'll never ask). The sad result of this is that some of the rural and or poor people of this state only know of one form of birth control: Abortion. Lack of access to other (possible less morally objectionable) birth control has sent them straight into the arms of one of the most contentious forms and raises the rates that seem to horrify every politician who pays even the slightest lip service to those that march in droves to that particular political dog-whistle.

Access to birth control is still a very large issue in the red states, and for those of us working on this, it sometimes seems like an insurmountable battle.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:11 PM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


The 'successful marriages" of Massachusetts obviously won't include all those cohabitations that ended up in slammed doors, shouting, and tears. Meaning the marriages that made it to the altar have been sort of skewed for success. The potential shitty marriages never made it to be counted. If you tally marriage + living together for both red & blue states will there be a smaller difference? I'll bet you there would be.
That may well be. But by and large, those unsuccessful, unhappy Blue State cohabitations will also not involve people having babies. I have no problem with people shacking up and realizing it's a bad match, and then going on to make better choices in life partners before bringing children into the equation. On the whole, I'd argue that is a net good.

I totally agree with you. My point was only to say that a person can't draw a lot of the conclusions that people do draw over the fact that fewer marriages end in divorce in Massachusetts. It doesn't mean (as people in my very blue office allege) that people in liberal areas are better at marriage and family. Doesn't mean they are worse either.
posted by xetere at 12:20 PM on May 4, 2010


If it were up to me, I'd put the "sexy" back in sex education.

When my wife was teaching, one of her colleagues in middle school got stuck answering the question Why would anyone put a boy's penis in their mouth, and in a lapse of self-censorship said Because afterward he'll be your best friend.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:22 PM on May 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


I see the validity of the "less stigma against cohabitation means that more marriages are likely to be of tested relationships," but I think it's important to realize that conservatives (speaking broadly) largely reject the hypothesis. Their thinking is that if you learn to go into relationships knowing that there's an out, that becomes your default pattern, and you're MORE likely to divorce, not less.

Also, I will say that as a woman who had her first child in her early thirties, there's a lot to be said -- physically -- for having your first child in your early twenties.
posted by KathrynT at 12:41 PM on May 4, 2010


Cohabitation and Divorce
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:06 PM on May 4, 2010


I am immature in plenty of ways, but I can't imagine ever dating a girl in her 20s. To me, that would feel like being with a child. I don't mean to offend 20-somethings, and I know and respect plenty of them. But we just don't have a lot in common. And I feel like I have the same lack of common ground with people my age (40s) who date much-younger people

That's a kinder way of saying what I've always maintained about dating someone with much less life experience. I can theorize a very, very mature 20 something dating a happy go lucky 40 something, but I've never actually seen it play out that way in practice.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:29 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whereas, give a right-winger a slogan like "HCR = Death Panels", "Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve", or "Where's the Birth Certificate?" and they'll embrace it like the Scriptures, repeat it like a mantra, and run with it until it loses all traction, facts be damned.
Liberals have professors, conservatives have salesmen.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 1:39 PM on May 4, 2010


I am immature in plenty of ways, but I can't imagine ever dating a girl in her 20s. To me, that would feel like being with a child. I don't mean to offend 20-somethings, and I know and respect plenty of them. But we just don't have a lot in common. And I feel like I have the same lack of common ground with people my age (40s) who date much-younger people.

grumblebee, your comment reminds me that the women I'm specifically thinking of, I met in grad school--we were all thrown together in a transitional kind of place, having left homes in other states to come there. I suspect that has something to do with why we ended up dating; again, a really specific life situation that bumped us out of where we were chronologically. I agree with you, I'm 44 now and can't imagine finding a 23-year-old very interesting for very long (or one being very into me). I doubt it would have happened with these women if we'd met "in the wild."
posted by not that girl at 2:49 PM on May 4, 2010


Also, I will say that as a woman who had her first child in her early thirties, there's a lot to be said -- physically -- for having your first child in your early twenties.

Oh, indeed! I feel like I really made a trade-off there--my kids got a mom with good mental health, most of her issues worked out, a stable relationship. But I'd have been much better able to keep up with them if I'd had them at 22, 25, and 29 instead of 35, 38, and 42! Probably they're better off overall, but it's a little hard on me.
posted by not that girl at 2:52 PM on May 4, 2010


xetere: “My point was only to say that a person can't draw a lot of the conclusions that people do draw over the fact that fewer marriages end in divorce in Massachusetts. It doesn't mean [...] that people in liberal areas are better at marriage and family.

Maybe not better at "family," but I'd say that fewer marriages ending in divorce means "better at marriage." How else could you possibly interpret it?

I mean the theory behind marriage is still (especially in those red states, at least in theory) a lifetime commitment, no? So if a marriage ends in divorce, it is by definition a failure. That doesn't mean that the relationship was a mistake, only the decision to enter into a supposedly lifetime contract.

It's entirely possible that people in blue states are not any 'better' in terms of forming stable long-term relationships, but the data does seem to suggest that by waiting on getting married, a lot of marriages that would otherwise fail are prevented. So, if protecting the sacred institution of marriage is important, this ought to be by far the better path.

Of course one might ask whether the whole idea of a lifetime marriage is sort of outdated given their failure rate even in socially liberal areas, and might suggest that there are other metrics (like overall happiness, percentage of relationships that are abusive) that would be more useful than divorce rate. But that sounds like librul talk, and as long as social conservatives continue to extol traditional marriage I see no reason why we shouldn't point out how bad they are at it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:25 PM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, you putzes got the colours backwards. Everywhere else in the world, the Blues are conservative. Damn fools.

It's not totally backwards. It's kind of "right." The "Liberals" or Democrats about line up with the "blue" Conservatives in Canada and the UK. And the reds ... Hmmm. Well. Okay. I can't explain that.

The American political spectrum seems to be missing its lefter half.
posted by kneecapped at 7:39 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you may have nailed it. It should be Blue and Gun-metal Grey. Or Blue and White. Or Blue and a Pirate's Flag.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:13 PM on May 4, 2010


I agree with you, I'm 44 now and can't imagine finding a 23-year-old very interesting for very long (or one being very into me).

Just to provide the other side, I am 38 and I find younger people fascinating. I have little problem finding things of interest to discuss. I find 20-year-olds no less interesting in general than 40- or 50-year-olds.

Now the odds that one would be "into me" are indeed slim (even though I'm married anyway). I just think that it is usually physical attraction (or lack thereof) that discourages October-May relationships, not intellectual or emotional compatibility.

as a woman who had her first child in her early thirties, there's a lot to be said -- physically -- for having your first child in your early twenties.

As a man who had his first child at 36, I would concur for fathers as well. In many ways, I realize how much more enjoyable being a father would be if I were 25. *shrug*
posted by mrgrimm at 2:06 PM on May 5, 2010


Just to provide the other side, I am 38 and I find younger people fascinating. I have little problem finding things of interest to discuss. I find 20-year-olds no less interesting in general than 40- or 50-year-olds.

I'm hear you, and obviously there are May/December relationships that work. But it's not, for me, a matter of having things to discuss. It's not about the fact that I remember when people used to smoke on the news and they don't. It's about life experience. It's not stuff you know; it's stuff you've gone through.

I have seen most of my peers get married and have kids; I have lost all of my grandparents; my mom is in her 70s and my dad in in his 80s; I have been married for 15 years; I have spent a couple of decades working to make myself proficient at various skills; I have seen most of my childhood icons (the musicians, filmmakers, etc. that I loved) die; I feel totally confident in who I am, but, at the same time, I have no desire to trumpet who I am to the world or to rebel. I'm just who I am quietly. Oh, I am also scheduling a prostate exam.

There's nothing special about that stuff. It happens to almost everyone, just by virtue of spinning around the sun a bunch of times. But, for me, it puts me in a VERY different place from someone who is 22 and just starting out in his first job.

What that younger person is going through IS fascinating, and I enjoy hearing about it. But he's not really in a place to understand what I'm going to go through when, say, my dad dies. Sure, he can understand that it's sad to lose a father. But he can't understand what it's like to be 45 and lose one -- how it's part of a general patter of one's world winding down.

And, to be honest, I can't relate, any more, to someone who is freaked out because he is about to come out to his parents. Or someone who is scared because he's about to rent his first apartment. That's all stuff I and my friends shelved years ago. It's neat to hear about it, because it's different from what I'm dealing with, but, for a partner, I want someone who is more on the same page as me.
posted by grumblebee at 2:19 PM on May 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


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