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i found this pretty interesting. a study done by two professors–both Brits but one who teaches at Cornell–shows that the the gender of one’s children does generally affect the parents’ political attitudes.
the authors of the study cite in their introduction that they wanted to investigate a previous study done by sociologist Rebecca Warner that investigated parents’ support of social policies designed to address gender equity. they found that effect to be particularly strong in fathers of daughters. based on their findings, they reasoned that “child rearing might provide a mechanism for social change whereby fathers’ connection with their daughters undermines … patriarchy”. They pointed to data that suggested that parents of daughters were more likely to support feminist views (were in favor of affirmative action, for example.)
Andrew J. Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee wanted to find out whether these findings on parental policy support could be expanded to include general party support.
you can read the details of their study here (it’s a lot of statistics and tables, but interesting if you’ve got the time.) here’s a general overview:
Oswald and Powdthavee used longitudinal data from the population of Great Britain. they did find evidence suggesting that raising daughters causes parents to lean left politically, while raising sons causes parents’ views to shift to the right (it raises the likelihood of a left or right vote by “approximately 2 percentage points.”
the explain that they did their best to account for alternate explanations for their data, as well as explaining that they investigated whether or not the child was biological or adopted affected the results. it did not. Oswald and Powdthavee say their findings show that “because of wage discrimination and different female preferences over public goods, parents rationaly tilt to the left if they have daughters, and to the right if they have sons.” they add that their findings, while encouraging, are not enough to draw concrete conclusions, but are significant enough to warrant further study.
now. my first reaction to this study was, “hey! that’s great! people can appreciate the sexism inherent to Occidental culture and vote to address it!” then, as i read the study, parts of it frustrated me, (i question the generalizations about women’s political main priorities and concerns), especially the part about the fathers’ politics being particularly affected by parenting daughters. because why does it take being personally affected by an injustice to care enough to change it? to me it suggests a pattern of male behavior that they are at best sexists and at worst misogynists unless they chance to raise a daughter.
but an interesting personal conclusion i drew from the study (which i’m not sure they intended) was that, willingly or unwillingly, people’s leanings based on the son vs. daughter variable showed something i think many people are unwilling to admit out loud: that more liberal policies are better for minorities. as much as Republicans might try to argue that racial and gender minorities fit easily under their “big tent,” that is simply not true. they do not espouse policies or even the general mentality that life is any different as a minority. (how often have you seen a respectable feminist who identified as a conservative Republican?) if parents want what is best for their daughter, they support more liberal politics that will remove or at least reduce the number of obstacles that might impede her. if parents want what is best for their (presumably straight white) son, they will support more conservative social policies. i was already aware of this, but perhaps some of the parents in the study were not. hopefully some eyes were opened.
but i do want to believe what this study says, because it is encouraging that people can be persuaded to recognize the difficulties of being a woman. however, i am loathe to recollect any personal experiences i have had that support this theory. my parents raised two daughters–strong-willed, driven, intelligent (mostly) daughters–but hold extremely politically conservative views. i know of a friend’s family who raised 4 daughters and her family is both religious and political conservatives and, rather than rail against the sexist machinations in society, they actually reinforced these sexist ideas and gendered roles in their home. (see photo below for general example.)
this photo also shows why i am skeptical of the researchers’ claim that they don’t believe family size is any indication or could play a part in families’ political leanings. actually, i’m pretty sure that in the U.S., that would be wrong.
i know that that my knowledge and experience certainly isn’t all-encompassing. but i’d be very curious to see the results of a study similar to this one done with American data.
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