The Corner

“Natalism” and Politics

David Brooks notes the link between family size and party affiliation. (And he’s got a good headline, too.) A friend emailed me yesterday about a related trend: “I was looking through some demographic numbers today and came across something very interesting in a publication by the National Center for Health Statistics. The data was from 2002 and show the median age of women in each state at first birth. In states where the median age at first birth is 24 or less, Bush won 199-3 in electoral votes. The only exception was DC. In states with a median age at first birth of 25, the electoral vote split was 118-87 in Kerry’s favor. In states with a median age of 26 or more, Kerry won 131-0.”

Brooks tries, unpersuasively, to minimize the political effects of the trend he describes. Politicians shouldn’t “pander” to natalists because they are less interested in money than in values, and they should understand that the natalists are too busy to be culture warriors. Well, there’s pandering and there’s pandering. Federal tax policy has gotten much tougher on large middle-class families over the last few decades, and I suspect that they would appreciate a reversal of that trend. Social Security is an implicit tax on large families, and I can see a case for reducing its anti-natalist bias. As for the “culture wars”–horrible phrase–I suspect that large families do tend to have more conservative views on issues such as abortion. People with conservative social views must be more likely to have large families in the first place, and then having them reinforces those views. Can Brooks really think otherwise?

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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