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Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Littlest Politicians

David Leonhardt has a piece in the New York Times, "Children, The Littlest Politicians," contending (and citing evidence from Europe) that "[h]aving a son tends to make parents more conservative, it appears, while a daughter makes them more liberal. The parental has become the political."  Why is this?

In small ways, having a daughter seems to make men think a little bit more like women when it comes to economic considerations like health care — and to make women focus even more on those issues. Democrats pushed for the Family and Medical Leave Act over Republican objections, for example, and more voters agree with Democratic positions on health care.

[One reason why parents of boys become more conservative] might be that men work longer hours and earn more money than women, giving the parents of boys reason to want lower taxes. Men also tend to prefer that individuals make decisions, a view that fits with Republican beliefs, while women prefer community solutions.

Or, another theory:

Matthew Dowd, a Republican strategist, adds another possibility: Many voters are influenced by their friends. Mr. Dowd speculates, for example, that parents of boys spend more time fishing and end up surrounded by Republicans.

Thinking back to arguments I used to have with friends and family about the death penalty, and to claims about how my opposition to capital punishment would evaporate "once [I had] daughters," I would have expected the research to point in the other direction.  And maybe it will.  In particular, maybe the salience in the United States of crime-and-punishment / law-and-order issues will lead to different results than those discussed in the piece.

Posted by Rick Garnett on February 19, 2006 at 01:47 PM | Permalink

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