Do daughters make you more conservative?

Dalton Conley and Emily Rauscher report:

Washington (2008) finds that, controlling for total number of children, each additional daughter makes a member of Congress more likely to vote liberally and attributes this finding to socialization. However, daughters’ influence could manifest differently for elite politicians and the general citizenry, thanks to the selection gradient particular to the political process. This study asks whether the proportion of female biological offspring affects political party identification. Using nationally-representative data from the General Social Survey, we find that female offspring induce more conservative political identification. We hypothesize that this results from the change in reproductive fitness strategy that daughters may evince.

I don't yet see an ungated copy, do you?  By the way, I applaud the authors for their "stones" in writing the last paragraph of the paper, such as:

The conservative emphasis on family, traditional values and gender roles, and prolife anti-abortion sentiments all stress investment in children – for both men and women. Conservative policies mirror the genetic interests of women, writ large. They attempt to promote paternal investment in offspring. Further, they stress investment in conceived offspring – “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” In short, Conservative policies support the genetic fitness of women by capitalizing on each pregnancy, reducing male promiscuity, and increasing paternal investment in children. Such policies may impinge on the freedom of parents’ immediate offspring, but they increase the expected number of grandchildren via daughters.

I'm not sure that's true as stated, but it does deserve further debate.


My ex-husband, normally conservative, became a lot more liberal with respect to opportunities for women and removing roadblocks to such opportunities when we had daughters - and no sons.

He's not elite.

I don't see how concerns about expected number of grandchildren would differentially impact people with daughters vs. people with sons, since each grandchild will have both a mother and a father. An individual woman (in competition with other women) may pursue different reproductive strategies than an individual man (in competition with other men), but society-wide changes aren't going to benefit one gender's fitness more than the other's.

Eibach, Libby, and Gilovich have a paper (pdf), also using the GSS, arguing that having children leads people to be more attentive to society's dangers, which causes them to mistakenly see society as becoming more dangerous. This kind of mechanism seems more plausible. Parents are more protective of their daughters, which makes them more attuned to the kinds of things that conservatives care about (crime, social degradation, a sexualized culture).

That last paragraph comes off as pretty condescending given that women as a group skew liberal - I doubt many women would agree that it takes men with daughters to correctly identify what is best for women.

Interesting result though. I'd be curious if it varied by social class - I'd guess that you'd tend to be more liberal (affirmative action, feminism, etc.) if your daughter was likely to grow up to be a lawyer or something. This could explain the opposite effect in members of Congress.

So, that explains why, with its one child policy, and male selection preferences by parents who abort females, China is so liberal.

It might be possible that certain conservative policies favor the genetic interests of women but that's pretty much an accident. The main political ideologies in the united states are just a path dependent hodgepodge of triangulated interest group alliances that people are very good at convincing themselves that they agree with. The paragraph on how conservatism is really the super secret pro-female ideology is a just particularly tenuous example of the rationalization people engage in as individuals.

When one analyzes the role of a government, and the role a parent generally takes to the child, it's the I know what best for you attitude. So in a sense, yes conservatives do have many of the interest of women writ large, but they treat the government as a father who knows what is best for their daughter, and you can still control both by force(in general, and however unethical), unlike a son, when they reach late teens, using force to keep them in line is very unlikely.
And no, the view that daughters will make a parent more likely to be conservative, is in no way condescending towards women. The whole philosophy is a fallacy of composition, and using force to enact these values. Being conservative may be condescending to the population as a whole, but the view that daughters make a person more conservative as a whole is not.(although I don't know if it's true if your daughter is politically active, but that's only a small population, so the generalization would hold over the majority of the population.)

"China is so liberal."

This is rather shocking news to anybody with eyes and a brain.

how on earth could they control for other sex factors?

like those biology / genetics studies asserting
- "alpha males" tend to produce boys
- more attractive people tend to produce females
- etc.

It would be interesting to see twin studies. Do pairs of twins with opposite sex children have different political views? It would be a fairly easy natural experiment to run.

The key factor in determining whether states are red or blue is the affordability of family formation. As I wrote in 2005 about the 2004 Presidential results:

The single best correlation with Bush’s share of the vote by state that anybody has yet found is: the average years married by white women between age 18 and 44: an astonishing r-squared = 83 percent.

(This has to be one of the highest r-squareds for a single unexpected factor ever seen in political science.)

Bush carried the top 25 states ranked on "years married."

For example, white women in Utah, where Bush had his best showing with 71 percent of the total vote, led the nation by being married an average of 17.0 years during those 27 years from age 18 through 44.

In contrast, in Washington D.C., where Bush only took 9 percent, the average white woman is married only 7.4 years.

In Massachusetts, where Bush won merely 37 percent, her years married average just 12.2.

Although there are profound cultural differences among states, the Marriage Gap among whites is driven to a striking extent by the Mortgage Gap.

The cost-of-housing index correlates with "years married" with an r-squared = 53 percent. Similarly, the housing inflation rate since 1980 and "years married" correlate at r-squared = 48 percent.

4. The Baby Gap: Bush carried 25 of the top 26 states in white total fertility (number of babies per white woman), while Kerry was victorious in the bottom 16. In Utah, for instance, white women average 2.45 babies. In the District of Columbia, white women average only 1.11 babies.

The correlation between white total fertility and Bush’s share produced an impressive r-squared = 74 percent.

While the Marriage Gap appeared to be somewhat more important than the Baby Gap, together they proved extraordinarily powerful in explaining Bush’s performance: their combined r-squared = 88 percent.

The voting patterns of both blacks and Hispanics are also somewhat affected by these factors. But both groups are shifted toward the Democrats.

I'm reminded of a line (from FlashForward) about the ease of raising a son vs. raising a daughter: "You only have to worry about one penis. I have to worry about all of them!"

This reminds me of a paper from the political science literature that got written up on Slate about a year or two ago. (I haven't actually read that paper.) Anyway, that paper argued that having sons made middle-aged voters more likely to support anti-war Congressional candidates, something like that.

Well, when you have a daughter, you become much more willing to beat the sh*t out of anybody who threatens her.

Yes. And threaten includes trying to deny her making a good living.

Jacqueline - that's correct.

Looking through my high school yearbooks recently (late 1960s early 1970s), the thing that really jumped out at this father with a few athletic daughters is the almost complete absence of girls athletics. After driving my daughters to practice and games and tournaments for the last 15 years, it was a shock to see only 2 pages for girls athletics and more than 20 pages for boys. The world has changed a lot, and much of it for the better.

But maybe what we are also witnessing in the US, in part, is the impact of abortion - those people most opposed to abortion for whatever reason have more children. The "Roe effect".

I meant only that parents may not want their daughters hurting their present reputation by themselves getting a reputation of being loose. So the parents buy into patriarchy and sexism at the expense of their daughters' happiness and sign the family on the Republican Party's platform of sexist double standards. My daughters are 5 and 1. Do the authors of this study even consider this possibility? If not, what does that say?

I haven't read the paper, but I'm wondering about its central assumption. While the sex of any particular birth is as good as randomly assigned, I think the within-family proportion is not necessarily random.

Here is an example.
Assume that different groups have different "stopping rules."

Republican rule: Have a child. If girl, have another, otherwise stop at 1. Stop after 2 children.

Democratic rule: Have one child. With probability 1/2, have another child. Stop after 2 children.

Republican Child Distribution:
(Outcome, Proportion Boys, Probability of Outcome, Expected Proportion)
(GB, 1/2,1/4,1/8)
(GG, 0, 1/4, 0)
For republicans, the expected proportion of males in a family is thus 5/8. It's easy to show that for democrats, the expected proportion is 1/2. Note that controlling for family size doesn't change anything - both groups have the same family size.

Can you elaborate on correlation between "Cost of Housing" and "years married" ? Is there a cause and effect ? Financial stress creating marital stress ? Not very clear on this House or Spouse concept.

By the way, Franklin's 1751 essay on why Americans have happier lives than Europeans should be widely recognized as the foundation of American social theory. Malthus admitted in the second edition of his big book that Franklin anticipated much of his theory a half century before him.

But Franklin's essay has gone down the memory hole in large part because Old Ben drew the logical conclusion that if high wages and cheap land make Americans happier, then restricting immigration is sensible.

Can't have that!

Franklin's essay is at:

I'm sure you recall your earlier post on daughters being what civilizes a man, not a wife.

There's little stigma anymore against living together, and a declining stigma against giving birth outside of wedlock. But there's a growing stigma against getting married before you can afford it.

A five-year long study of 162 white, black, and Hispanic single mothers in Philadelphia has put a human face on the relationship between the Mortgage Gap and the Marriage Gap.

Sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, authors of Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage, wrote an essay in the Washington Post (May 1, 2005) entitled "Unmarried Because They Value Marriage."

"What we discovered was surprising: Instead of a rejection of marriage, we found a deep respect for it among many young mothers, who told us that getting married was their ultimate life ambition. While they acknowledge that putting children before marriage is not the ideal way of doing things, they’re not about to risk going through life childless while waiting for Mr. Right. Marriage, we heard time and again, ought to be reserved for those couples who’ve acquired the symbols of working-class respectability: a mortgage on a modest rowhouse, a reliable car, a savings account and enough money left over to host a ‘decent’ wedding."

Women in higher social classes are more likely to avoid the disasters of giving birth out of wedlock. But they often postpone marriage and/or children until they can afford the down payment on a house in a neighborhood with good public schools.

"A neoconservative is a liberal who's gotten mugged" though a cute quip, isn't the rule - rather the way most folk respond to personal strife that should otherwise have them question their values/views of life, is to further widen the gap between what they would say ought to be universal rules versus how they act/react personally. Cheers.

I don't understand the logic of having additional (marginal increase) in girls having an effect.

If it is social protection, then you should care for the one daughter as much as the many daughters--and, maybe more for the one daughter if it is your only child or only daughter.

Definitely need to see the data.

I also wonder if the data set is limited to families with a mother and a father, thereby excluding single parent families, which are usually poorer. If the premise was that the father became more conservative the more daughters were in the family, this argument couldn't be made for a single mom household. If single parents are included in the data set, and the thesis is that social control is enhanced with conservative values, thereby enhancing parental control, then I would expect to see more conservative values in single parent households. good luck with that argument.

Statisticsl issue with this paper:

Did the authors control for family size? Did the authors control for male-female child ratio?

Re #1: As conservatives have more children (plenty of research supports this), they would tend to have more daughters (absolute number of daughters). This is a simple correlation vs causality mistake (i.e. being conservative makes you have more daughters, not the other way around).

This is easy to control for statistically - did they?

Comments for this post are closed