This week I am reading Jane Mayer's remarkable book, Dark Money, on the ultraconservative billionaires who have orchestrated the rise of the modern right wing, including Charles and David Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, and John Olin. It is an extraordinarily researched book with enormous implications for the crisis that the nation is going through, and I will eventually discuss it here at some length. But meanwhile, I'm going to share some interesting demographic data that I turned up some months ago that also has implications for our political future. It breaks down our fertility rate by state.
The fertility rate is generally defined as the number of births per thousand women aged 15 to 44. Recent stories stress that our overall fertility rate is at an all time low--but that is only part of the story. Like so much else in our society, fertility rates have become a cultural characteristic, and culture is highly correlated with politics. Red states, to put it bluntly, are reproducing at substantially higher rates that blue ones.
My data comes from a recent year, but I must apologize that I didn't note what the year was when I found it and haven't been able to find the table quickly just now. The fertility rate in the 21 states that voted for Hillary Clinton ranges from a high of 69.3 per thousand in Hawaii, through 62.4 for California (where half a million children were born in the year under review), and more than 60 in Minnesota, New Mexico, Washington state, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Delaware, and Colorado. The lowest fertility rates in the nation--under 55 per 1000--are in the six New England states and the District of Columbia, all of which, of course, voted for Clinton. All told in this particular year there were 1.67 million births in Clinton's states--and 1.01 million deaths.
The Trump states show a different pattern. Utah, not surprisingly, leads the country with a rate of 80 births per thousand women of child bearing age, followed by the Dakotas, Alaska, Nebraska, Idaho, Texas, and Kansas. All these states of a fertility rate of at least 70, that is, higher than any Clinton state. After that, the entire South, except Florida, has rates in the 60s (Louisiana and Arkansas, surprisingly, are the highest), and only Florida and Pennsylvania among Trump states have rates as low as 59. The Trump states had more deaths than the Clintons, 1.25 million to 1.01--presumably because they include to may retirees. But they had about 33% more births, 2.32 million to 1.67 million. That is a large part of the reason that the red states are expected to gain yet more Congressional seats in the new census.
I am not going to include any racial breakdowns here, because the only convenient table that I have found, from teh Kaiser Foundation (no relation), combines whites and hispanics, which surely gives a misleading picture. But I have before me a table showing the household income level of women giving birth in 2014, which is rather remarkable as well. The median household income in that year was about $53,000, and from the table it would appear that more than half of the women giving birth were above that level. Only 38% of birthing women lived in households with incomes of less than $50,000, while 56.4% of their households earned $75,000 or less.
Based on my own personal experience, the lowest birth rates in the country seem to come from my own demographic--well-off, well-educated people in the blue states. Among my close friends and relatives I know only two people who have more grandchildren than children. Late in the second year I spent teaching at Williams, in 2012-13, I suggested to some students that they might consider having kids in their 20s, and the idea was not well received. The problem of left wing politics today, I think, is their moral certitude, their sense that what they know to be right simply must come to pass. But the blue states are losing the demographic battle, and that is just one of many trends working against liberals today. I should be discussing a much bigger one next week.