By Amy DePaul, Bookslut
Posted on August 2, 2010, Printed on August 3, 2010
Are conservative values voters who consider themselves pro-family more likely to divorce than their liberal counterparts?
Law professors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone had what they call their “ah-ha moment” when they started looking at how states voted in presidential elections and compared the results to social trends in those states. They found that states voting red — presumably for socially conservative, “pro-family” candidates — also had high divorce rates, higher than in blue states. Building on their research, Cahn and Carbone then developed theories about family formation in the U.S. and its relationship to political affiliation.
In their book Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture, the authors explain that “red families” believe adulthood is forged by the responsibilities of getting married and having children early. Blue families, by contrast, defer marriage and childbirth until after they have reached adulthood, which usually follows economic and educational attainment. The reasons for the sharp divide are rooted in economic changes and personal belief systems, which both authors discussed with me recently. Their comments, culled from conversations via the telephone and e-mail, follow.
How did you get started on this area of research?
Cahn: What started us in looking at this was that as we watched the ’04 election and we saw the moral values commentary unfolding, we looked at the polling and divorce statistics. So our first “ah ha” moment was looking at the correlation between divorce rates and family characteristics and how likely a state was to vote red or blue. As we probed further, we saw an amazing congruence between how a state voted and their divorce rate.