Re: The Demographic Spread of Liberalism

Over at the Corner, Jonah asks a very good question:

Specifically: How come conservatives aren’t out-”breeding” liberals? Every now and then some conservative notes that  pro-lifers tend not to abort their children while pro-choicers are more likely to. James Taranto has written about this “Roe effect” a bunch of times: “Pro-lifers can pass their values on to their children; those who abort their children can’t.”

I find the logic fairly unassailable, as far as it goes — i.e. if you hold all of the other variables at bay. America has become more pro-life, and you could argue it’s become more conservative since 1973 as well. Whether that has much to do with the Roe effect, I have no idea. But forget abortion; I could swear I’ve read that social conservatives have a much higher fertility rate than urban liberals.

So how come it sure seems like the liberal states are exporting liberal citizens to conservative states and not the other way around?

Like Jonah, I’ve also seen reports that conservatives have higher fertility rates (certainly religious conservatives at least), but that’s hardly translating into across-the-board conservative gains. We may be more economically conservative than we were in 1973, and we are more pro-life, but multiple other cultural indicators show leftward drift. Why?

My own theory has to do with education. Specifically, while conservatives are having more kids, liberals are educating them. After all, colleges are essentially wholly owned subsidiaries of liberal America, and our public primary and secondary schools are heavily influenced (if not dominated) by the liberal educational establishment. Yes, parents are key in transmitting values, but as any public school parent can tell you, they have competition — strong competition — from preschool onwards.  

As for college, we know that it has a profound liberalizing effect, particularly on social issues. If education were even slightly more balanced, we’d live in a much more conservative nation. It’s little wonder, then, that the Left defends its functional educational monopoly with such ferocity.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.