Having Daughters Rather Than Sons Makes You More Liberal

I know, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s not unusual with detailed research. I read this at FiveThirtyEight.com: according to research, Having Daughters Rather Than Sons Makes You More Liberal. Or, as I read the study, makes fathers more liberal. And legislators. Here’s some of what they say:

Warner (1991) and Warner and Steel (1999) study American and Canadian mothers and fathers. The authors’ key finding is that support for policies designed to address gender equity is greater among parents with daughters. This result emerges particularly strongly for fathers. Because parents invest a significant amount of themselves in their children, the authors argue, the anticipated and actual struggles that offspring face, and the public policies that tackle those, matter to those parents. . . The authors demonstrate that people who parent only daughters are more likely to hold feminist views (for example, to favor affirmative action).

By collecting data on the voting records of US congressmen, Washington (2004) is able to go beyond this. She provides persuasive evidence that congressmen with female children tend to vote liberally on reproductive rights issues such as teen access to contraceptives. In a revision, Washington (2008) argues for a wider result, namely, that the congressmen vote more liberally on a range of issues such as working families flexibility and tax-free education.

This is cool with me. I don’t see why, and I think it just shows once again how little we want to rely on research — this is politics, not business, but still, would you want to make significant decisions based on this? Do you think correlation is causation? Do you think they’re right?

Oh no! As I think about this, there’s a horrible temptation to start ticking off everybody I know, men with daughters, men with sons, thinking about whether they confirm or disprove the basic assumption here. That’s not a useful exercise. And it doesn’t work very well with the people I know. But who can argue with data? (Hint: just about anybody, but that’s a different post).


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