Tuesday, 26 May 2009

"daughters and left-wing voting"

if you were listening to the panel today on radio nz, you would have heard a little item towards the end about research which shows that "having daughters makes people more likely to vote for left-wing political parties. Giving birth to sons, by contrast, seems to make people more likely to vote for a right-wing party." thanx to the wonders of google, i've found the original research paper, should you wish to wade through the whole thing.

some of the literature review was quite interesting:
  • support for policies designed to address gender equity is greater among parents with daughters (and particularly for fathers)
  • people who parent only daughters are more likely to hold feminist views (for example, to favor affirmative action)
  • congressmen with female children tend to vote liberally on reproductive rights issues such as teen access to contraceptives
  • the gender of children appears to affect both labor supply decisions and parents’ attitudes to their own roles in the family
  • the single most important concern to males is that of low taxes. For females, by contrast, it is the quality of the National Health Service

as to their main thesis, the research data came from great britain, and they have many graphs and tables which i will leave for you to assess. sue bradford was a guest on the panel, and totally pooh-poohed the findings, on the basis that she is a parent of four sons, and that other green MPs also have sons.

there is the fact though, that women are more likely to vote left than men. the authors of the research give the following reason for this:

because by assumption
• there is pay discrimination against women, and
• females derive greater utility from public goods like community safety,
it transpires that unmarried women are intrinsically more left-wing than unmarried men. When compared to males, women prefer a larger supply of the public good and a greater tax rate on income: the reason is that their marginal utility from the first is relatively high and the tax penalty they face from the latter relatively low.

in other words, because women are lower paid, they are less likely to benefit from tax cuts but more likely to benefit from social services. i'm a mother of daughters, but i was already a strong lefty from my university days. i can't imagine that my views on (for example) social justice and equal opportunity would have changed if i'd had sons.

so, i'm not sure if i agree with this overall, and would be interested to hear the experiences of others.


Anonymous said...

I dunno but having sons certainly hasn't made me any less of a lefty.

Psycho Milt said...

"sue bradford was a guest on the panel, and totally pooh-poohed the findings, on the basis that she is a parent of four sons, and that other green MPs also have sons."

This kind of ignorance is a pet peeve of mine. One person's individual situation tells us nothing useful about statistical likelihoods across large groups.

the Scarlet Manuka said...

Having girlfriends and getting married has certainly changed my thinking by exposing me more directly female experiences of the world. For example, as a single man I heard a lot less of the messy details of pregnancy. I imagine that having daughters would expand my perception of the world further than having sons because a daughter would (on average) be more different to myself than a son would.

Note that the strongest impact was seen on Fathers, not Mothers. I think that this is entirely consistent with an analysis built around privilege being leavened with empathy.

Anna said...

Yeah, I get annoyed at the 'my situation is representative of everyone's' line of thinking too. Manuka, I think you're right on the money with your privilege vs empathy comment. I know a few people who've moved left when they've had (male or female) children - you can't think of yourself as an independent rational economic individual so much when you've got other people relying on you.

Trouble said...

I remember Don Brash being quoted as saying he became more sympathetic to feminist issues and causes after having had a daughter. It's a bit sorry to only be able to accept a principle after having seen how it applies to someone you care about, but it clearly works for some.

Moz said...

Could it be that left-leaning voters are more likely to have daughters? Albeit they seem to have established causation fairly well.

I'm also irritated with the simplistic and inaccurate left-right labels. Gender equity demands would be a foundation of any genuine right-wing party but it's invariably something they want to remove (individual rights, but apparently only for certain individuals), ditto reproductive rights (libertarians vs christians in the US). And so on. Grrrr.

I think the Brash comment sums it up for me: the personal is political even for people you would expect to worship at the alter of rationality.

homepaddock said...

Accepting that an individual case doesn't prove anything, I became interested in politics, and invovled in the National Party, after I became a mother (of a daughter) because I worked out the link between a healthy economy and the provision and affordability of public services.

You don't have to be leftish to understand and support the need for public services and you may not have to be rightish to understand that a healthy ecnonomy is necessary to pay for them.

I think the division between left and right (except at the extremes) isn't so much over the provision of public services in general as which ones and to what extent they're universal or targeted.