Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jutes' revenge

From Jayman's behemoth American Nations post, Gregory Cochran's comments on the problems with self-identified ancestry:
Fashions change. For example, the fraction of Americans who report English ancestry has dropped drastically since 1980 – so much that so that you would have to wonder about secret death camps if you took it seriously. But it’s fashion. ... This means that people in the US claiming a particular ethnicity can not only have limited ancestry from that group, but be oddly unrepresentative as well.
The GSS shows 15.2% and 9.0% of respondents identifying as English or Welsh in 1980 and 2012, respectively. The US Census shows 18.5% and 8.0% in 1980 and 2012, so the GSS parallels the census results pretty well.

I figured the boiling off that occurred over the last three decades would be perceptible by looking at the political orientation profiles of the two cohorts, but (excluding moderates to make the comparisons easier to digest) those of English/Welsh ancestry were 32% liberal, 68% conservative in 1980 and, similarly, 38% liberal, 62% conservative in 2012. To the extent any disproportional shifting did occur with the shaking off of English/Welsh affiliation, it was more among political conservatives than among liberals. I would've guessed the opposite to have been the case. The only ancestry less attractive to SWPLs than English is probably German. Okay, and "American", too, of course.

Greg Cochran gives a clue in the fashion bit, though--the English/Welsh affiliates of today are a noticeably older lot than were their counterparts 30 years ago. In 1980, the mean age of English/Welsh adults was 46.7. As of 2012 it was 53.2.

GSS variables used: YEAR(1980, 2012), POLVIEWS(1-2)(3-5)(6-7), ETHNIC(8), AGE


Jokah Macpherson said...

I imagine a lot of the cause is just a bigger denominator while the numerator is relatively stable.

Audacious Epigone said...


Yes, Mexican and several Asian ancestries increased notably over those 30 years, of course, just not enough to cut the English representation in half on its own.

IHTG said...

Isn't this because New Englanders have retained their "English" identities the most?

Anonymous said...


My family is new englandish.

The thing is, if your family is half irish and half english, which side are you more likely to identify with?

The more "ethnic" Irish.

I understand according to my parents that I am 1/4 italian and 3/4 irish, but at various times they have mentioned ancestors being english (and maybe french If I recall correctly), so you can't really know because unless your family keeps strict geneological records, you tend to think of yourself as the one with the most "Kiss me I'm ____" T-shirts to go along with it. Being Irish is cool...being English....

Perius said...

Anonymous@312, those are fair points but only part of the picture in my view. I also have the uncertain Irish-English bit. But the attractiveness of earthy, colorful ethnicness is a matter of taste. I think you're being too general. You seem to be using "ethnic" as a synonym for more earthy, more colorful, less uppity, less snobby and austere with less hauteur. I recognize that common sense of the word, but strictly, ethnic is ethnic. Look, I might be more Irish than English--but English is as ethnic to me as Irish. And one gets tired of bar t-shirts as a symbol of your heritage. It's not enough.

You have your point about the way people tend, I suppose. My inclination is that tendency should be controlled by oneself if he wants to cultivate himself. If I wanted to cultivate my Irish side, I'd go seek higher culture and ancient culture and avoid the shamrock-tees altogether. And I'd remind myself the English are totally as ethnic as anyone could ever want to be.