Sunday, November 19, 2017

Nicholas Kristof strikes out

He is seriously misleading at best:

Charitably, "often" isn't intended to be synonymous with "tend to", "usually", or any other word or phrase that indicates liberals are more likely to live 'family values' than conservatives do. Instead, Kristof is taken to be merely stating the bland and obvious fact that there are some liberals who often family value better than some conservatives do, just as there are some women who are taller than some men.

To continue with the undeserved grant of magnanimity, it must also be assumed that the evidence offered--that these indicators tend to look better in blue states than in red states--is incidental to the assertion rather than serving as evidence for it.

One obvious reason for the blue state-red state disparities is that red states are 26% blacker than blue states are. The larger black populations in red states make all of the indicators Kristof mentions worse than the smaller black populations in blue states do, but the black populations in those red states--like blacks everywhere--overwhelmingly vote for the left.

Another reason is laid out in Andrew Gelman's book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State which, using data from the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, shows that while across the country Republicans tend to be wealthier than Democrats, that trend is more pronounced in red states than it is in blue states.

That is, in blue states there isn't much difference in class and status between Democrat and Republican voters. In red states, however, Republicans tend to be of higher status and social class than Democrats.

Given the positive relationship between wealth and desirable outcomes on the indicators Kristof includes, this means that--especially in red states--it is those on the left who are disproportionately having the teen births, getting divorced, cheating on spouses, and renting hookers. Kristof is attributing the poor outcomes largely caused by these mostly Democrat voters in red states--where leftists tend to congregate at the bottom of the social order--on conservatives in general.

Using the GSS, the following tables show, by political orientation, the percentages of first births conceived by teenage parents, the percentages of ever-married people who were either divorced or separated at their time of participation in the survey*, the percentages who have cheated on a spouse, and the percentages who have paid for sex. The first table shows total population results. For contemporary relevance, all responses are from 2000 onward. Sample sizes are large--the smallest N for any of the results presented is 3,946:

The second table shows the same restricted to non-Hispanic whites:

Kristof goes 0-for-4. Self-identified conservatives do a better job embodying the family values they "preach" than self-identified liberals do.

* This method counts those who've remarried as "married" rather than as "divorced" or "separated". It consequently understates the number of marriages that have ended in divorce or separation but there is no obvious reason why this should systematically 'favor' liberals or conservatives in terms of perceived marital success.

GSS variables used: EVSTRAY(1-2), MARITAL(1,3,4), AGEKDBRN(10-19), EVPAIDSX, RACECEN1(1), HISPANIC(1), YEAR(2000-2016), POLVIEWS(1-2)(5-6)


Anonymous said...

Wait. Why do blacks overwhelmingly live in Red States? Surely Blue States are more welcoming to them.

Is it that Blue states are high-priced states and disfavor family formation?

Audacious Epigone said...


It's not quite overwhelmingly the case, but red states are blacker than blue states. }

Some of it is simply a consequence of history. AFF is part of it, too, and so probably is the tendency for the presence of blacks pushing whites away from voting Democrat and towards voting Republican (this is most salient in the South, where whites in the heavily black states of Alabama and Mississippi overwhelmingly vote Republican).

Noah Carl said...

I expect the differences will be even larger if you consider Democrats versus Republicans. If I remember correctly, more blacks identify as 'Democrat' than identify as 'liberal'.

Dan said...

Can you level up, AE?

There is a tremendous need for accurate data in the market.

JayMan said...


Of course, as this is all self-report, standard caveats apply.

Black Death said...

Nice job, AE. Kristof is a real blue-blood of the liberal establishment (Harvard, Oxford, NYT). He blames all of the social dysfunction in the black community on "racism" and "white privilege." Would you expect any less?

Audacious Epigone said...


Yes, they will be because while blacks are overwhelmingly Democrat, they are only slightly more likely than whites to identify as politically liberal. Contra Ben Shapiro, color matters.


Kristof definitely saw this. He received north of 150 notifications about it. The NYT editorial account weaseled away a bit, saying that people in blue states have better family values than people in red states, without falsely insinuating that people who self-ID as liberal have better family values than people who self-ID as conservative.


Right. And so is much of what he's basing his column on. We work with what we have.

Black Death,

No, I'd hope for less, but I expect exactly what we get. He's the perfect avatar for the virtue-signaling SWPL, a true white ally!

Jig Bohnson said...

Doesn't your analysis suffer from the same deficiency as Kristof's, namely that you haven't controlled for socioeconomic status? As you have stated, the non-virtuous behaviors are highly inversely correlated with wealth, and self-identified liberals are, on average, more downscale than self-identified conservatives. So your charts are really showing the inverse correlation between wealth and virtue, not the correlation between political conservatism and virtue or political liberalism and lack of virtue.

The main point of Kristof's piece was actually a good one, that UMC white liberals practice the virtuous personal behavior that leads to success - getting married, waiting until married to have kids, and staying married - and yet do not preach this behavior to others or support social policies which incentivize it. Instead they do the opposite - socially support other behaviors and support policies which disincentivize virtuous behavior in the lower classes. It is like they are monopolizing the successful strategies for themselves.

Audacious Epigone said...


Doesn't your analysis suffer from the same deficiency as Kristof's, namely that you haven't controlled for socioeconomic status?

No. His argument is a false one because white liberals do not practice the virtuous personal behavior that leads to success, at least not at the same rate as white conservatives do. Whether income or any other set of variables conditions that reality, the GSS makes it pretty clear what the reality is. Kristof is committing an ecological fallacy.

thekrustykurmudgeon said...

I don't know - the whole thing seems somewhat self congratulating - although not to the level that anonymous conservative is notorious for.

Jonathan Centauri said...

In Blue States, those fambly values are pretentious pop tarts, cheap chalupas, long commutes and one blackout away from The Planet of the Apes and one economic collapse away from the fabled EBT card Zombie Apocalypse.
Y'all in the Red States hang on to your Bibles and Guns. These Yangs and Cones are one combover con man away from Living Forever in the Logan's Run to Sanctuary. Y'all tell 'em there ain't no sanctuary.

Glen Filthie said...

When families break down it’s almost always the liberals in the family responsible for it.

Jig Bohnson said...

I may be missing something but I still don't see how you can conclude one way or the other from the data you have presented whether, once controlling for socioeconomic status, white liberals or white conservatives are more virtuous. Kristof's conclusion in that regard is not supported by the data, but I don't think yours is either. To truly answer the question one would need to restrict to, say, a sample of people with income in some range and then divide that by political affiliation.

In any case, to me the most interesting thing is that the gap between people's professed values and their behavior is clearly wider for UMC white liberals than it is for UMC white conservatives.

Audacious Epigone said...


In just about any apocalyptic scenario, urban areas become massive graveyards in a matter of weeks if not just days.


I didn't make controlling for SES conditional on whether or not the assertion is correct. It may not be with SES controlled for, but it is correct as we find things in the real world.

Kristof, in contrast, asserted something that is incorrect on its own terms.