The Gender Gap

John Sides at the Monkey Cage points to an article in the Weekly Standard about the voting booth gender gap. Sides says that the political science research shows that over time, women haven't gotten more liberal, but men have been more likely to vote Republican. Women haven't changed; men have.

Ages ago, I saw a paper presentation at conference that looked at the voting patterns of individuals with children. They found that women became more likely to prefer liberal or progressive issues, after they became mothers, while men were likely to prefer conservative or libertarian issues, after they became fathers.

I don't remember the title of the paper or the authors, so I can't check out their findings, but their conclusion seems to pass the common sense test. Mothers are typically in charge of dealing with childcare and education. They are more likely to witness the inadequacy of these systems and want the government to improve them. Because genderized divisions of labor still exist, the men are in charge of paying taxes on their new homes and protecting their families. They are going to get more grouchy about tax increases and more concerned about law and order matters.

This is all speculation, of course. Just curious if these vague memorizes of a conference paper gels with your experiences.

 

21 thoughts on “The Gender Gap

  1. I don’t know if this translates to American politics but I definitely have become more fond of living in Canada since having children. It’s that feeling that if our family completely fails, at least there will be healthcare for our kids and some kind of social net in place. That and really, really appreciating the 50-week mat leave.
    Interestingly my sib dealt with the same pressures by returning to the US homeland in order to earn way more money. (Middle & upper management, overall, earns WAY more in the US.) However I believe that was a vote for the Dems. :)

  2. I think part of it may be public sector/non-profit (but federal grant dependent) employment leading women to support Democrats. From what I have seen, the lower level clerical-type jobs have gone from all male to basically pink collar (except for the IT people) in a generation.

  3. My experience has been that marriage and having children tends to make both women and men more conservative and more likely to vote Republican. But of course, my experience has no statistical controls, which is why scholarship is more valuable than anecdote.
    Marrying and having children tends to correlate with (i) moving to the suburbs, (ii) becoming a homeowner, and (iii) having a higher income. It also correlates with aging, which may mean (i) less support for drug legalization, because you don’t use them anyway, unless you’re Keith Richards and, (ii) for women, less experience with sexual harassment. Both of these might reduce the appeal of liberal/Democratic policies.
    There is also some statistical association between (i) having children and attending church regularly and (ii) attending church regularly and voting Republican. Again, some subtle statistical analysis would be required to sort out this effect.

  4. I’ve heard of a similar story, although it was qualified with whether folks are parents of sons or daughters. Daughters evidently generated more Democratic tendencies.
    I always imagined that it had something to do with what would happen if someone impregnated one’s daughters. But it’s a hypothesis.

  5. That would be — a parent’s feeling if their daughter were impregnated by someone — not the parent himself. The latter would lead to larger problems likely not related to vote choice.

  6. Just curious if these vague memorizes of a conference paper gels with your experiences.
    No, but I think that’s because I’m a tradesperson. With us, it’s always “the economy, stupid.” I strongly suspect that the men who become more conservative are those men who are doing better than average financially. Men who aren’t doing so well—either treading water or losing ground—are still voting Democratic.
    It’s good to keep in mind that single women (whether or not they have children) tend to have very liberal politics, but don’t tend to vote…they don’t see candidates that support their issues, and don’t see the point in lesser-of-two-evils voting (no, that doesn’t describe me. I’ve been holding my nose in the voting booth for many years).

  7. One slight distinction: I know quite a few women who’ve become quite a bit more conservative (or at least conflicted) about abortion rights after parenthood. The various restrictions that outraged me/us in our twenties (parental notification, late-term limitations, waiting periods) start to feel more moderate after multiple ultrasounds.
    I hasten to add that (a) this hasn’t affected my voting one iota; and (b) intellectually, I still understand why restrictions are opposed by abortion-rights people. I mean, I know people who needed late term abortions for good reasons. I’m glad they were still legal and relatively easy to get (if by easy we mean, still obtainable to folks able to pay to travel long distances).
    But there’s an area where my middle-aged self has veered away from my youthful idealist.
    Spouse has become more liberal over the years. He’s got zero patience for any party that embraces folks who reject evolution, global climate change, and gay rights.

  8. Your husband would have real trouble voting in West Virginia. The Democratic governor, currently a candidate for the senate, took a rifle and shot the climate bill.

  9. “…any party that embraces folks who reject evolution, global climate change, and gay rights.”
    If that’s how he feels, he’d better not look too closely at the lower socioeconomic end of the Democratic party.

  10. I agree that pre-natal parenting classes are essentially indistinguishable from pro-life political rallies.
    I am a very poor student and very immature, however, and couldn’t help giggling through the parenting classes (and would probably giggle through pro-life rallies, too.)
    (You see, there was this French doctor at the parenting classes who sounded just like Inspector Clouseau, and he kept saying things in his strong-French accent, like, “The fetus is very, very small, but very, very clever,” and I kept imagining that the fetus was a world-class jewel thief, and the French doctor was the inspector trying to stop the fetus, but kept getting outwitted . . .)

  11. If that’s how he feels, he’d better not look too closely at the lower socioeconomic end of the Democratic party.
    Luckily, we vote for candidates, and not other members or our party.

  12. “One slight distinction: I know quite a few women who’ve become quite a bit more conservative (or at least conflicted) about abortion rights after parenthood. The various restrictions that outraged me/us in our twenties (parental notification, late-term limitations, waiting periods) start to feel more moderate after multiple ultrasounds.”
    Not me. I was always pretty pro-choice, but I’m even more so now after two pregnancies. The ultrasounds were beautiful and the fabulousness of the children who followed from them did bring home the continuity of the creation of the lives of my children. But, I also saw completely clearly the demands that the pregnancy put on my body, on my autonomy, and could not imagine forcing that on anyone else, for any reason. It clarified for me that I wasn’t willing to have legal control of the foolish reasons for abortions (eye color, as one example, and gender for a more worrisome one).
    I’ve become a bit more conservative about personal responsibility, but I don’t think that’s child-related. I think it’s aging. I used to be naive enough to see everyone in unfortunate circumstances as a victim. I’m more demanding now of what I expect of adults, and more willing to condemn them to fairly horrible fates for not living up to those responsibilities.

  13. I’ve become a bit more conservative about personal responsibility, but I don’t think that’s child-related. I think it’s aging.
    Have you written any letters to the editor about what is wrong with kids today? Can you say “personal responsibility” without irony while sober? Do you spend a great deal of time on your lawn? So much that you’ve been known to yell at kids to get off of that lawn? You may be eligible for a study about getting older and whether or not it happens to everybody. Participants who complete the study will receive an NPR tote bag, a Sting CD, and coupons to the Olive Garden.

  14. bj, I was careful not to say all women.
    Amy P, if you’re trying to argue that there’s no difference between the two major parties when it comes to those issues, you’re not convincing me. More importantly, since I’m the type of Democrat who’s never changed her votes ever, you’re not convincing my used-to-be-a-crazy-Libertarian husband.

  15. Jody, I wasn’t saying that you said all women, just making a point of giving an alternative take. I’ve always been pro-choice, but my post-pregnancy self is rabidly pro-choice (within the law). I think it’s fine for people have strong opinions a pregnant woman’s responsibility to the (yes, child) within her body, but that the law has to be neutral, in the same way that no one should be compelled to donated a kidney against their will (no matter how strongly we feel that it would be the moral thing to do).
    “Have you written any letters to the editor about what is wrong with kids today? Can you say “personal responsibility” without irony while sober? ”
    Yes. But, I don’t spend time on my lawn. We have to figure out the non-lawn curmudgeonly equivalent.

  16. Yeah, I get that. I suspect that our voting habits are exactly the same, because at the end of the day, I don’t think my emotional wishy-washiness should affect the law, but there’s something about being in a NICU with babies only a few weeks away from legal abortion, not to mention signing off on all the paperwork required before my daughter can pierce her ears, that changes my perspective.
    Not my vote, but my perspective.

  17. “signing off on all the paperwork required before my daughter can pierce her ears”
    Well, personally, I believe we can do away with a lot of that stuff, too.

  18. “Well, personally, I believe we can do away with a lot of that stuff, too.”
    How are you on 15-year-olds’ right to choose full body tattoos?

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