November 5, 2008

Once again, Affordable Family Formation paints the states red or blue

I have to confess that I wasn't paying that much attention to who would win the election. What I was really looking forward to was the distribution of votes within states. Based on the extremely similar results in 2000 and 2004, I had invented a novel and ambitious theory explaining why American states vote in differing proportions for Republican or Democratic candidates.

My Affordable Family Formation theory isn't about who wins nationally, it's about how, given a particular national level of support, which states will be solid blue (Democrat), which ones purple (mixed), and which ones solid red (Republican).

Of course, George W. Bush ran in both 2000 and 2004, so maybe he was the reason my theory worked so well in both elections. Thus, 2008, with its quite different candidates, was a good test. Or maybe the Housing Bubble and its subsequent popping would have changed results dramatically.

Before getting to the results, let me review my AFF theory. It holds that what paints the electoral map red and blue is "affordable family formation" was validated once again. Taking a quick and dirty look at McCain's and Obama's shares in each state (plus DC) with 92% of the national precincts reporting, the same two demographic variables that drove the results in 2000 and 2004 showed startlingly high correlations once again.

My basic theory is that Democrats do best in states with metropolitan areas where land for homes is scarce because they are hedged in by oceans or Great Lakes; while Republicans do best in inland areas where homebuyers can look around for homes in a 360 degree radius around job sites. I call this the Dirt Gap: Republicans are found more in areas with more dirt and less water.

This means that homes in inland areas tend to be cheaper because the supply of land within a certain commuting time is greater. In turn, cheaper homes mean that non-Hispanic whites tend to marry earlier and have more children, which means they attract family oriented people and their cultures tend to be more family-oriented, making Republican family values appeals more appealing there. In contrast, "Living by the Water," which is #51 on the Stuff White People Like website, correlates with Stuff White People Like political views. (You can read about Affordable Family Formation in detail with graphs here.)

Take a look at the Average Years Married between ages 18 and 44 among non-Hispanic white women in the 2000 Census. That's a statistic I invented to be the marital analog of the well-known total fertility rate measure (which estimates from the latest available year's birth behavior how many children a woman will have in her lifetime). Likewise, Average Years Married estimates how many years out of the 27 between 18 through 44 will a woman be married. The Average Years Married for non-Hispanic white women does a remarkably good job of predicting McCain's (or Obama's) share of the total vote across all races in the states.

Thus, McCain carried 19 of the top 20 states on Average Years Married among non-Hispanic whites, while Obama carried 18 of the 19 lowest states. The correlation coefficient was r=0.88, on a scale where social scientists usually call r=0.2 "low correlation," r=0.4 "moderate correlation," and r=0.6 "high correlation." So, in the social sciences, r=0.88 would have to be something like "extremely high correlation." This is, however, down from the astonishing 0.91 level seen in 2004, but, keep in mind, the demographic data I'm using is now 8.5 years old. (It was collected on April 1, 2000 for the last Census.)

Looking at the 2002 Total Fertility Rate among non-Hispanic Whites, Obama carried the bottom 15 states, while McCain carried 14 of the top 15. The correlation coefficient was r=0.82. The demographic data is now 6 years old. (In 2004, when the demographic data was fresher, it was 0.86.)

Keep in mind that this is based on incomplete 2008 voting results with 8% of the precincts and who knows how many of the mail-in ballots missing, so the correlations will likely change.

By the way, this explains much of the Sarah Palin Hysteria: with her five children, she elicits the SWPL whites' secret dread that they are being outbred by the non-SWPL whites.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

30 comments:

Stopped Clock said...

I wonder if the correlation would go up or down if it was possible to break down the vote by race and then compare the white, black, and Hispanic vote in each state with the respective AFF numbers.

robert61 said...

So to abstract your argument a little more, there are two main attractors:
1) family values: red, Republican, net fed tax-eating states
2) individual values: blue, Democrat, net fed tax-paying states

This sits pretty well with the model in Gelman et al's book (at least as far as I've understood it from Razib's review and a Cato presentation), with two different voting regimes.

How would you get a statistical picture of whether the two groups are tending to polarize or move together? Change in net transfers of federal tax? If transfers are growing, the gap is widening and vice-versa?

Have you looked at the breakdown of the transfers? Red states tend to be agricultural and have a lot more federal land (California is sort of an outlier, but then California is kind of half red and half blue.)

In re Hispanics, the family values we are talking about in the family formation model are those of northern Europe and its descendants - tightly nuclear and only loosely bound to more distant family. Hispanics have a more Mediterranean pattern, with more extended-family interconnections. The Republican strategists who keep expecting Hispanics to come around see the big families and strong family orientation and think, Aha! Family values! But it turns out they are the wrong family values.

Sorry to natter on. I had an aha moment with that stuff about net transfers, which always seemed anomalous but which makes sense in the context of creating fertile ground for families.

Greetings from the ultimate red state, Sweden.

georgesdelatour said...

Hi Steve

It's dangerous to assume everyone always has secret reasons for their criticisms of someone, which only you have ingeniously sleuthed out. Shouldn't you at least consider the possibility that Sarah Palin doesn't appeal to many voters because she's a bungling moron who's totally unsuited to high office? Hitchens pointed out that she couldn't tell the difference between Nicolas Sarkozy and Inspector Clouseau. Surely that matters more than how many kids she has.

rast said...

It holds that what paints the electoral map red and blue is "affordable family formation" was validated once again.

English, please.

jan said...

Steve, i don't know exactly which variables you correlate to obtain r=0,88 but as far as I understand you use aggregated data (means) on a state-level. Doing this you obtain a so-called "ecological correlation". There is nothing wrong with this (as long you do not get trapped in an "ecological fallacy") but the values of this kind of correlations are higher than if measured on an individual level. So your benchmarking to the values of 0.2, 0.4 and 0.6 is not completely valid. Replace in a scatterplot some groups of points by their means and it becomes obvious why. This remark does not invallidate your interesting findings but plays down a little bit the strength of the correlation. BTW, I once tried to explain this to Tatu Vanhanen concerning the correlations they mentioned in "IQ and the wealth of Nations".

Jan Verbeeren

Reg C├Žsar said...

But AFF doesn't apply only to natives. Immigrants who want families should be pouring into the high-AFF states and avoiding the low-AFF ones. Is this happening? I don't see it.

Also, the low birthrates of high-AFF states should be easing their burden, and over time the states should converge somewhat. (Unless bad local economic policy, as in Michigan, or New York, where only financiers can survive, drives out normal people from those states' "red" areas.) If housing costs are key, metropolitan New York should be shrinking, while the Erie Canal cities should be growing; the opposite is happening.

Dennis Mangan said...

Presumably your AFF theory only predicts current and relatively recent elections, as California, e.g., used to go Republican not so very long ago, and the South voted Democrat. So why and how did all that change? Is it the rise in population, or the monumental interference in the economy - hence housing - by the government since the 60s, or the passage of the National Suicide Pact on Immigration in '64?

Half Sigma said...

You have the cause and effect backwards. Liberal policies (zoning and land approval regulations) CAUSE higher housing prices.

Vermont is inland and rural, very Blue, and has high housing prices.

In the west, people are moving from Democratic California to much lower housing available in libertarian Republican states of Arizona and Nevada.

California does NOT have a land shortage.

jody said...

i like how my identity has been changed so that i am now a "non-hispanic white". everybody's identity has been rearranged so that it now references a made up, non-existent group. and a minority group at that. LOL! notice how "hispanicness" is denoted first. this is the most important thing about any human in the united states now. whether you are part of a fake, made up group. race is secondary.

all because the US federal government was not clear on how to identify mixed race people from places that spain invaded.

steve's data on the demographics of the 2008 election is just plain wrong, naturally, as interjecting a non-race group into a race based system confounds everything. as you can easily see by checking the federal government's own data from various agencies. non-white mestizos, arabs, persians, and berbers are counted as white, white and black citizens are "hispanic" if they have spanish surname but "african-american" or "non-hispanic white" if they have an english one, and so forth.

in 20 years, it will require mental and statistical gymnastics to keep this fraudulent system working, with mass confusion over what race millions of people are. steve harps over the US news media being incorrect about race when the numbers are even 5% off. how inaccurate are his own numbers? mestizos identify variously as either white or non-white, and there over 30 million of them, 10% of the population at least.

mark said...

Not to dump on your interesting ideas TOO MUCH, but have you thought of comparing some of your statements to verifiable data? For example, you state:

"My basic theory is that Democrats do best in states with metropolitan areas where land for homes is scarce because they are hedged in by oceans or Great Lakes; while Republicans do best in inland areas where homebuyers can look around for homes in a 360 degree radius around job sites. I call this the Dirt Gap: Republicans are found more in areas with more dirt and less water.

"This means that homes in inland areas tend to be cheaper because the supply of land within a certain commuting time is greater. In turn, cheaper homes mean that non-Hispanic whites tend to marry earlier and have more children, which means they attract family oriented people and their cultures tend to be more family-oriented, making Republican family values appeals more appealing there. In contrast, "Living by the Water," which is #51 on the Stuff White People Like website, correlates with Stuff White People Like political views."

Obviously, there's some truth here, but it's not the whole story. If you consult the popular red state/blue state maps,

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2008/

you'll see that while broad inland areas tend to be red there are also very considerable swaths of coastline that are red--especially along the Gulf and the Atlantic south of Washington, DC. You will also find considerable blocks of inland blue areas: the Black Belt in the south, Indian Country in the Southwest, and much of the Upper Midwest. Much of the Red Midwest is either quite close to or actually on the Great Lakes.

Perhaps you can work that into your theory.

David Davenport said...

But AFF doesn't apply only to natives. Immigrants who want families should be pouring into the high-AFF states and avoiding the low-AFF ones. Is this happening? I don't see it.

Immigrants tend to go where their brethren are already, and where welfare is more generous.

Jonathan said...

Uh, the Sarah Palin hysteria was based on the simple fact that the woman is an idiot. Is it really that hard to understand? The 5 kids are a non-issue for most non-fundamentalist types. Palin doesn't even come across as maternal. McCain cost himself the election with that pick - or at least any chance of winning NH, OH or PA.

Anonymous said...

Is the correlation you're picking up really just a "length of dense settlement" variable? Before rail and trucks, cities had to be near big ports to get food in from the hinterland, and so all the other factors that tend to make cities blue could be confounding your results..

How do cities on the Mississippi (old but landlocked) look in your regression?

Steve Sailer said...

Good question about length of dense settlement. One obvious pair to compare is Cleveland vs. Cincinnati. The latter, on the Ohio River, was probably a big city earlier than Cleveland on the Great Lakes. But the Cincinnati metropolitan area voted quite a bit more conservatively than the Cleveland metropolitan area in 2004. (I haven't looked at 2008 yet.)

Similarly, Atlanta was an important city before the Civil War -- that's why Sherman taking it in September 1864 got Lincoln re-elected.

i am the walrus said...

Can someone help me out? Which was the one state in the top 15 in non-Hispanic white fertility that Obama carried?

"Uh, the Sarah Palin hysteria was based on the simple fact that the woman is an idiot. Is it really that hard to understand? The 5 kids are a non-issue for most non-fundamentalist types. Palin doesn't even come across as maternal. McCain cost himself the election with that pick - or at least any chance of winning NH, OH or PA."

OK, Jonathan. Let reset the Biden gaffe count to zero now that he's the vice president-elect and see where it stands a year from today, two years, three years, and then four years. It's a pretty good bet Sailer's blog will still be around.

And do you really believe Sarah Palin is any more of an idiot than Harvard Law graduate Michelle Obama?

After eight years of the unostentatious Dick Cheney and Laura Bush, I'm looking forward to some good laughs provided by our future vice president and first lady.

Steve Sailer said...

I'm counting Indiana as going for Obama, although there's a tiny chance McCain might wind up with it in the end.

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

"And do you really believe Sarah Palin is any more of an idiot than Harvard Law graduate Michelle Obama?"


There's somewhat of a difference, isn't there, between a stupid candidate who HAD to make public appearances (and who wasn't shy about doing so)and a stupid prospective first lady who was being hidden by her handlers (and who was at least smart enough to accept that in a greater cause)?

Besides, for reasons that have been mentioned on this blog thousands of times, the public is not ALLOWED to notice or conclude that Michelle Obama is an idiot.

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

All this number-crunching and scenario-promoting is making me dizzy.

How about adding another equation to the standard equations?

Take the standard equation first, candidate preference, and apply it to California.

You get little patches of blue in highly populated relatively cosmpolitan counties such as Los Angeles and those counties in the SF Bay Area and large patches of red in most of the relately sparsely populated areas in the state, principally the Central Valley.

They seem to support the Sailer Effect.

Now take a hot-button high-profile socio-cultural political ISSUE that should cleave along the blue-red dichotomy -- the most obvious one being gay marriage.

Because gay marriage went down (that is, the constitutional amendment prohibiting it passed, though not by a huge margin), even as Obama was swamping McCain, the red-blue county-by-county map has to look a little different.

Obviously, there were Obama supporters who opposed gay marriage, though Obama himself opposed Proposition 8 (in a two-faced typically political way that tried not to offend his less "tolerant" constituency too much - "marriage is between a man and a woman BUT...")

How does the red-blue map look along when assigned to Proposition 8 voting results? It has to look different, but how and where?

My guess is that the demographic of the most likely ticket splitter would be an evangelical black clergyman or church-goer in South Central Los Angeles.

But however, this new red-blue map looks, whose scenario best explains it?

simon said...

"By the way, this explains much of the Sarah Palin Hysteria: with her five children, she elicits the SWPL whites' secret dread that they are being outbred by the non-SWPL whites."

I don't think they're afraid of being outbred, that's a very "wrong sort" emotion. From what SWPL whites have told me, it's not fear of being outbred, it's disgust at any whites who breed, certainly at any whites who have more than 2 children. One told me "The French are so racist - I visited Paris, and there were all these _white_ babies!"

Recognising the death cult nature of cultural Marxist dialectic is I think very important to understanding it.

Anonymous said...

"I'm counting Indiana as going for Obama, although there's a tiny chance McCain might wind up with it in the end."

It should be noted that a narrow Obama win in Indiana can be attributed to his strong support in Gary, which is next to Chicago and Lake Michigan.

testing99 said...

Palin is not stupid -- she fought corruption in AK and pushed spending decisions to the public, along with rebating money from AK oil funds to the people.

She's not up on the DC insider lingo, or what McCain believes this day. But she rose entirely on her own ... that's not stupid. Obama? Affirmative Action benificiary? Please.

Now, Affordable Family formation?

Please, Steve. While it is useful and explains some of the effect, you ignore the formation of family being affected by OTHER factors. It's not enough for cheap real estate and good standards of living.

People live most of their lives single, marry late, with far too much baggage, at the end of their attractiveness and hardly ever bond. They divorce fairly quickly. It is more likely that Roissy in DC has a better picture of what drives politics.

Which is the endless singleton struggle for status and the "best" mate/date possible.

Anonymous said...

causation, correlation, yadda yadda yadda...

You are really taking this loss pretty hard, eh?

Anonymous said...

Half Sigma said...
"You have the cause and effect backwards. Liberal policies (zoning and land approval regulations) CAUSE higher housing prices."

Or maybe those blue states have more democratic constitutions and therefore the voters can do as they please, and they have chosen to restrict development.

However in places like texas, democracy is stifled and so therefore housing developers and other monied players run amok and contol the govt.

Ronduck said...

It should be noted that a narrow Obama win in Indiana can be attributed to his strong support in Gary, which is next to Chicago and Lake Michigan.

No, Gary is just a miniature version of Detroit, complete with the same Democratic voting residents. I have read online that the counties in NE Indiana are some of the most corrupt in the state, having Chicago Democratic habits.

Anonymous said...

You can call it what you like (and SWPL is pretty amusing) but what you are measuring are indications of social class. Because of the policies that the Republican Party has followed since I last voted for one for President in 1984, they have become unattractive to upper-class but not top-tier income people (you know, those of us in the SWPL demographic).

Michael Ventura said...

>McCain cost himself the election with that pick - or at least any chance of winning NH, OH or PA.<

Jonathan,

I think you are allowing your hostility against Gov. Sarah Palin to get in the way of seeing reality clearly.

Among those who said McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for VP was a factor in their vote, McCain beat Obama by 13 points.

Among those who said the selection of Sarah Palin was not a factor in their vote, McCain lost to Obama by 32 points.

Surely there were people who voted against McCain because of Palin. But what the data indicates is that far more people voted FOR McCain because of Palin.

What you are doing against Palin here is very similar to what the neocons do against Barack Obama vis a vis the positions he has taken on the War in Iraq.

They pretend that Iraq was a net positive for McCain and that it somehow would've been better for him if Iraq was in the news more. All the while completely ignoring that among those voters who said the war was number one issue in their vote, Obama crushed McCain by 20 points.

I hope Obama thinks about that margin, and about the War in Iraq having a staggeringly low -27 approval rating in the 2008 general electorate, when considering whether or not to take the foreign policy advice of certain Iraq War cheerleaders Christopher Hitchens.

I think there will be a war for Obama’s soul between the anti-mass murder faction (led by Jeremiah Wright*) and the pro-mass murder faction (led by Christopher Hitchens).

I wonder if Steve has any thoughts on who is more likely to win?

*I realize Wright has been nice to Hamas, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that Wright has never endorsed or approved of anyone who committed political murder on a truly mass scale. This clearly places him in a objectively superior moral position to the unapologetic Trotskyite Christopher Hitchens.

Anonymous said...

From what SWPL whites have told me, it's not fear of being outbred, it's disgust at any whites who breed, certainly at any whites who have more than 2 children.

I think you're onto something here.

In hyper-liberal Los Angeles, where I currently reside, the hatred for Palin is quite extraordinary. It's not mere disapproval or suspicion or skepticism, it's real visceral hatred that I've heard over and over from young show business types. It's shocking and demands explanation.

Truth said...

"It should be noted that a narrow Obama win in Indiana can be attributed to his strong support in Gary, which is next to Chicago and Lake Michigan."

Oh yes, his victory in a state of 6.5 million can certainly be laid squarely upon this town of 102,000.

"along with rebating money from AK oil funds to the people."

Gotta love those Marxist-Socialists!

Half Sigma said...

walrus: "And do you really believe Sarah Palin is any more of an idiot than Harvard Law graduate Michelle Obama?"

(1) Michelle Obama wasn't running for office. (2) Michelle Obama passed a bar exam, perhaps after failing it the first time. Palin is not smart enough to EVER pass a bar exam. So yes, Michelle Obama is smarter than Palin, not that it's a relevant comparison.

anonymous: "in places like texas, democracy is stifled and so therefore housing developers and other monied players run amok and contol the govt."

Real estate developers make HUGE money in states where development is heavily restricted. It gives them more monopoly power. Elliot Spizter, former governor of NY, is worth half a billion dollars because of the money his family made in real estate.

Anonymous said...

Good. White liberals will go extinct. Between abortion and childlessness, they have no future.