The Red State advantage for families

red state family

One of the mainstays of the the left is making obviously false statements about conservatives and then using that strawman to prove their own superiority. No where has this been more prolific than on the subject of family life. Over an over the left claims that Red States have higher divorce rates than do the socialist states in the Union. When left wing academics Naomi Cahn and June Carbone published their book Red Families v. Blue Families, it was like catnip for the left. The publisher’s blurb says:


Family law scholars Cahn (Test Tube Families) and Carbone (From Partners to Parents) defuse America’s bitter culture wars in this measured, statistics-based look at the societal pressures and changing economic realities that influence regional ideologies and voting patterns. The book focuses on the blue state/ red state division, acknowledging the demographic data suggesting that life patterns differ regionally, and that these differing family structures influence political allegiances: the bluest states have fewer teen mothers and lower divorce rates, and emphasize responsibility; red states have high teen birth and divorce rates and emphasize tradition.

When interviewed, naturally, on NPR, this is how the host framed their book:

Many of our assumptions about the cultural divide between red and blue states may be wrong. New research shows that more liberal states, like Massachusetts, tend to have the lowest rates of divorce and teen childbirth. In other words the most stable families, the homes with two parents to nurture their kids, are found in the liberal strongholds along the East and West Coasts.

Conversely, the higher rates of teen childbirth and divorce occur in the red states that conservatives so often celebrate as the heartland of family values.

As might be expected when two leftwing moonbat law professors try to use numbers, things were not as they seemed. W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Zill of the Institute of Family Studies re-examined the data and found there was a difference between Red and Blue State families, though they would not be the differences that Cahn and Carbone would like to see. Wilcox and Zill realized that states are not homogeneous  and Red versus Blue State is a very rough comparison. When you think of Texas do you think of Austin or downtown Houston? When you are discussing Pennsylvania are you discussing Pittsburgh? Philadelphia? Or Pennsyltucky?


Wilcox and Zill looked at data at the county level and determined at how that county voted in 2012. A county that voted for Mitt Romney was Red (like Waukesha, WI) and a county that voted for Obama was Blue (like Dallas, TX). So now, instead of swamping Red Counties with Blue Cities it is possible to look at social behaviors by voting patterns. The size of the dots indicates the population of the county. Just keep your eye on the trend lines for the bottom line.




Red counties are more married. I suppose that now this data that Cahn and Carbone touted as a Blue state advantage in family stability is shown to be a Red state atrribute, they will now claim that this is a sign of an oppressive patriarchy.

The data suggest that marriage is more likely to ground and guide adult lives, including the entry into parenthood, in red America. The red advantage in marriage, in all likelihood, flows in part from higher levels of religious participation and normative support for marriage found in more politically conservative counties.

Red counties have fewer out of wedlock births


Out of wedlock births is a long accepted marker of family instability and as a predictor of future poverty and government dependence.

Again, this relationship holds up with and without county-level socio-demographic controls. Being born within marriage matters because children who are born into a married home are much more likely to experience stable family lives than children born to unmarried couples or single parents.

Teens living in intact, two parent (different sex) homes is higher in Red counties


redstate2As an aside, if you use the Cahn-Carbone methodology of looking at states as an entity (I’m guessing that they did this because 57 sets of state data is easier to think about than 3,143 counties or county-like entities.


Children living in intact two parent homes is the sine qua non indicator of family stability. And the links between family stability and avoiding anti-social behaviors and escaping from poverty are inescapable.

Contrary to the thesis that blue America does a better job of delivering family stability to our nation’s children, Figure 3 shows that today’s teens are more likely to be living with their biological parents if they live in a red county. Specifically, both with and without controls for county trends in education, race, and age (and weighting for population size), teens in red counties are more likely to be living with their biological parents, compared to children living in bluer counties.

When asked about the differences between their thesis and the data Wilcox and Zill presented, Cahn and Carbone did what leftists do: obfuscate:

They agreed with Mr. Wilcox that some red-state values also kept families intact, such as religion and community organizations, especially when a married couple attended the same church. But the red model has other disadvantages, they said: “Since early marriage and traditional gender roles tend to undercut education, it also makes more couples less able to compete.”

Above all, Ms. Cahn and Ms. Carbone added, they think the best solution for stronger families is a stronger economy, with better jobs.


Except non-traditional gender roles are directly related to marital dissatisfaction and breakup and there is no evidence that education, per se, leads to much of anything other than student loans. Now that Cahn and Carbone have discovered the value of a stronger enconomy… something they didn’t bother to examine in their book as it wasn’t important at that time…. one wonders if they want to look at the per capita income, work force participation rates, or level of job creation in  Red versus Blue areas? I’m guessing no.



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