Thursday, November 13, 2008

More income, more votes; Republicans wealthier, more generous than Democrats

++Addition++Stopped Clock points out an obvious oversight on my part. In looking at average income for white Republicans and Democrats from '00-'06, I didn't attempt to make any adjustment for family size. White Republicans are more likely to be married and also more likely to have children than white Democrats are. When looking at household income, marriage potentially increases the Republican family unit's total income relative to a Democrat who is single without kids, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the former unit's members are more affluent than the Democrat is (however, married Democrats are more likely to have both partners working than married Republicans are).

I ran the same numbers again (whites only, 2000-2006), this time only for families of four. The total number of respondents drops from 4,846 to 725. Spread across eight political categories and 55 income categories, that starts getting pretty sparse. So I've condensed down to three political persuasions:


The trend holds. It's worth pointing out that 'Strong Democrat' families of four have higher average incomes than 'Weak Republicans' do. Otherwise, the rank ordering is identical to the last table presented in the body of the post below.


In discussions surrounding recent posts, I've consulted the GSS for insights on a few things. They may be of general interest, so they're presented below.

Not surprisingly, higher income is correlated with higher voter participation. The average (mean) individual income of respondents by frequency of voting at the local level:

Always vote: $63,700
Sometimes vote: $66,100
Rarely vote: $55,300
Never vote: $36,500

Maybe the "always vote" segment, representing a little under one-third of the population, is made up of political junkies who tend to be well enough off but who are not always the most affluent members of their communities.

The GSS asks respondents how frequently they make charitable donations. I assigned five points to "more than once a week", four points to "once a week", three points to "once a month", two points to "at least 2 or 3 times a year", one point to "once a year", and zero points to "never". Thus a higher score indicates greater generosity. Following are the average charity scores by political persuasion for all respondents and also for (whites only):

Strong Republican2.38 (2.39)
Weak Republican2.04 (2.08)
Republican2.01 (2.07)
Strong Democrat1.85 (2.08)
Democrat1.82 (1.88)
Weak Democrat1.70 (1.75)
Independent1.54 (1.57)

That's how liberal they are about giving their money, but what about giving their time? The GSS asked the same question about respondents' frequency of volunteering, with an identical list of prospective responses. I computed average scores by political persuasion in the same way. The scores are lower because people donate their money more regularly than they donate their time:

Strong Republican1.43 (1.46)
Strong Democrat1.19 (1.19)
Republican1.14 (1.17)
Democrat1.06 (1.11)
Weak Republican1.03 (1.11)
Weak Democrat1.04 (1.11)
Independent0.81 (0.79)

Republicans' advantage over Democrats is wider when it comes to giving money than when it comes to giving time, but in the latter case Republicans are still more generous. A strong political persuasion increases the likelihood of donating both time and money to charity among both Democrats and Republicans. Notice also that whites, across all political persuasions (with the marginal exception among independents when it comes to volunteering time), are more generous than non-whites are.

Presuming the mandatory civil service Obama and his Secretary of Staff Rahm Emanuel favor allows young Americans some say in how they will 'volunteer' themselves, white Republicans will experience the least amount of disruption in their lives from it, while non-white Democrats will experience the most.

Finally, while I share Half Sigma's concerns that the Republican party is at risk of losing the support of upper class whites, the conceptualization of a Republican comprised of middle class and working class whites and a Democratic party comprised of minorities and upper class whites is premature. White Republicans are still more affluent than white Democrats are.

Looking only at respondents who participated in the GSS sometime between 2000 and 2006, the average family income by political persuasion for whites only:

Strong Republican$159,500$107,000
Weak Republican$134,000$93,000
Strong Democrat$131,700$87,600
Weak Democrat$125,800$84,300


mwc said...

Could it also be that the "always vote" category contains a higher proportion of elderly people?

Audacious Epigone said...


Maybe. It's hard to tell from the GSS data, because only 4% of respondents who answered both the income and voting frequency questions were 65 or older. Among those between the ages of 18-64, the pattern appears to be the same, with the "sometimes vote" slightly higher in average income than the "always vote".

There is probably some effect going in the other direction, with those in their teens and early twenties making relatively little money and also being less likely to vote than their elders.

BGC said...

Very interesting.

I wonder what controlling for religiousness (which is associated with altruistic behaviors) would do to the effect of political orientation on these altruistic behaviors?

I think there is a big difference between volunteering for work you really care about, and doing 'voluntary' work that government thinks you should care about.

Stopped Clock said...

You didnt control for family size on the family income graph.