Bubba has the babies

Today Colin Woodward, author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, has an op-ed up, The Maps That Show That City vs. Country Is Not Our Political Fault Line: The key difference is among regional cultures tracing back to the nation’s colonization. Woodward’s thesis is basically that the modern shape of American cultural and political conflict has deep structural roots in American history. This is the same argument that David Hackett Fischer makes in Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, and Kevin Phillips more broadly about the Anglo-world in The Cousins’ Wars: Religion, Politics, Civil Warfare, And The Triumph Of Anglo-America. These perspectives are useful because there is a tendency in modern American discussion to reduce the sum totality of the dynamic to the white supremacist order, as opposed to the “rising tides of color.” There is an area where the cult-of-Pepe and the identity Left agree descriptively (they just flip the good guys and the bad guys).

There is some of this in the Ezra Klein Vox piece, White threat in a browning America. There are the whites. And there are the non-whites. And never the twain shall meet.

On a side note, Klein’s reliance on social psychological research about white racial anxiety being elicited by priming or information which makes non-whites salient should be critiqued more thoroughly. I suspect most of us find the argument intuitively believable, but the past five years of the replication crisis in psychology, where social psychology was ground-zero, should really make us put our guards up about evidentiary claims which support views we already have a bias toward accepting.

In any case, Klein cites research which shows that non-Hispanic whites are now less than 50% of the births in this country. Rather than arguing about the future of racial identification, I was curious about which whites were giving birth. The problem with raw average total fertility rates is that they mask underlying variance. For example, in Britain the majority of Jews are non-observant, but the majority of Jews under the age of five are from observant families. This is a function of the extremely low fertility of the non-observant majority, and the very high fertility of observant Jews in Britain.

The reason I bring this up is that the different subcultures of the United States have different fertility rates. David Hacket Fischer posits four major Anglo-American streams which date to before the Revolutionary War: New England Yankees, Tidewater and lowland Southerners, Scots-Irish highlanders, and the diverse polyglot Mid-Atlantic region, from Quakers to Dutch. Woodward and others have a somewhat different taxonomy, but the broad sketch aligns.

The curious fact is that up between the 1640s and 1840s New England Yankees were the most fecund of the American Anglo-cultures. The fertility of New England was such that the region began to colonize parts of the United States which had heretofore been dominated by other groups. The eastern half of Long Island was taken over by New Englanders, and they became prominent in New York’s merchant class (there was also a Yankee migration into the Canadian Atlantic provinces). New England farmers swept past the Dutch dominated lower Hudson Valley and overwhelmed the rest of upstate New York, creating a cultural fission that persisted up to the Civil War between the pro-Southern city of New York and the fiercely Republican upstate areas.

In contrast, the population growth rate in the South was depressed compared to the North. Much of this probably can be accounted for by endemic disease.

Things are different now.

The CDC has data on total births by race and ethnic identity by state. I pulled the data and plotted them. The correlation between the number of births and the number of people in the states by race and ethnicity were very high (0.98 and such). Also, I removed about the bottom five states in total population. The data are from ACS sample surveys, and it is pretty clear that small sample sizes are a problem in some of the cross-tabs/states.

In any case,

1) everyone seems to have lower fertility in California
2) Texas is good for whites and Hispanics in terms of having children
3) blacks have very high relative fertility in Florida

Yes, you can see Utah has elevated fertility. No surprise there. Here are the ten states in my data with the highest number of white births to their white population from top to bottom:


Here are the states with a relatively low number of white births to total white population (Connecticut has the lowest number of white births to white population):

Rhode Island
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico

California is expensive. Florida and Arizona are filled with old white people. Many of the rest are Yankee.

The General Social Survey allows me to look at white ethnicities. I wanted to look at the number of children of various white ethnicities. I limited the sample to Protestants and Catholics.

Here are the results:

In the early 20th century Nordicists like Madison Grant were worried about the fact that Southern and Eastern European ethnics were going to overwhelm the Nordic stock of this country. But take a look at Italian and Polish fertility. People in urban areas have fewer children, and presumably white ethnics who remained identified by their ancestral heritage are disproportionately urban. When the Irish are split up by religion, Catholics tend to be more childless, and also have a minority with large families. This is probably tracking the intense secularization of white Catholics over the last generation, but the persistence of a traditionalist minority. Protestant Irish, who are probably often Scots-Irish, are similar to the other British Americans.

Finally, the ideological differences are really striking but unsurprising:

Left-liberal dominance of cultural institutions such as the media and academia are essential in part because it allows them to generate defections from people raised conservative. They can’t maintain their numbers through “natural increase” alone.

We’ll see what 2050 is life. I hope to be alive. But I think we’ll all be surprised in some ways by some of the defections and realignments. Michael Dukakis won West Virginia in 1988.

13 thoughts on “Bubba has the babies

  1. Razib,

    I would like to thank you for a fascinating blog with plenty of fresh perspectives and valuable book tips. It would be most interesting if you would also at some point give us your thought (and more book tips) regarding gender history, gender roles, “the patriarchy” and similar matters. For instance, Peter Turchin comments on the rise of the Alpha Male in his book Ultrasociety, but he still does not touch upon the feminist notion of history as a saga of male oppression of women (see for instance the documentary The Ascent of Woman by Amanda Foreman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPMocsqHnDo).

  2. Most of the defections to the “extremely liberal” camp are probably coming from the “slightly liberal” and “moderate” camps. It’s less of a leap to go from “slightly liberal” to “slightly conservative” and vice versa, although I admittedly haven’t seen the data on whether that happens (partisan differences actually seem to be pretty sturdy, if I remember the Poli Sci research right).

    I’m guessing it’s the same thing on the conservative side. There’s also probably a fair number of defections on the conservative side from “extremely conservative” down to just “conservative” (I know a couple folks who are formerly of polygamist families in Utah, although the splinter polygamist church seems to be in a rather painful decline).

  3. Spotted toad had a similar post recently. You may already have seen it, but if not, here’s the link:

    I liked his closing paragraph:
    The culture war is perhaps most centrally about who is born and who is not, about who becomes parents and who does not. Freedom from parenthood is in some ways a source of cultural strength these days- there’s a reason pretty much all the heads of state running Western Europe right now don’t have any kids- but the future as is often said belongs to those who show up.

  4. It’s worth noting that a number of those states with lower white birth rates have disproportionately high gay populations.

  5. Did you correct for age when looking at the number of children based on ideology? With the correlation in the GSS between age and ideology, conservatives are somewhat more likely to have finished having all their kids.

  6. This article from slate (somewhat old) cited an analysis by the Pew Research Center of 2010 census data.


    “Indeed, according to an analysis of census data conducted by the Pew Research Center, about one quarter of all women with bachelor’s degrees and higher in the United States wind up childless. (As Pew notes, for women with higher degrees, that number is actually slightly lower than it was in the early 1990s—but it is still very high.) By comparison, in England, which has one of the highest percentages of women without children in the world, 22 percent of all women are childless. According to the new Center for Work-Life Policy study, 43 percent of the women in their sample of corporate professionals between the ages of 33 and 46 were childless. The rate of childlessness among the Asian American professional women in the study was a staggering 53 percent.”

    What was the saying? The rich get richer, the poor have kids?
    I’m curious what the 2020 census data will reveal.

  7. I was on vacation for a few days with my family visiting friends of my wife in Boston. I jokingly made the observation to them that if present trends continued indefinitely into the future, at some point the majority of the U.S. population would either be Amish or Hasidim.

    Regarding your list of “low white birthrate” states, keep in mind the median age in Maine and New Hampshire is higher than Florida. Connecticut and Rhode Island are also above 40 now in terms of their median age. I’d have to dive down into the data, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the median age for non-Hispanic white was north of 40 in all of these states.

    Of course, median age is directly raised by not having children. But speaking as someone who grew up in Connecticut, a lot of my age cohort did not return to suburban Connecticut if they left for college. Many relocated to the more affordable sun belt for jobs. Others located in major cities like NYC or Boston, perhaps moving out once their kids were school age, but generally speaking not back home. Thus while “Yankeedom” may be dying out geographically, likely the birth rate of those “Yankee born” isn’t quite as dire.

Comments are closed.