December 13, 2004

Demographics: Do Trends Favor Conservatives in RI?

Marc Comtois
I've posted here before about the theory that demographics is the prime mover in politics. While I don't think that demographic forces are the sole cause of electoral outcome, as some apparently do, I don't discount its importance. With this in mind, it was with great interest that I read Steve Sailer's piece at The American Conservative. In short, Sailer observed that, among white voters (the most unremarked-upon voting block in our nation), family size is a valuable predictor of voting habits. In essence, more kids=Republican (conservative) voting. As such, he used fertility rates as a measuring stick and noted
The most fecund whites are in heavily Mormon Utah, which, not coincidentally, was the only state where Bush received over 70 percent. White women average 2.45 babies in Utah compared to merely 1.11 babies in Washington, D.C., where Bush earned but 9 percent. The three New England states where Bush won less than 40 percent—Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island—are three of the four states with the lowest white birthrates, with little Rhode Island dipping below 1.5 babies per woman.[emphasis mine]
Currently, our state is one of the oldest per capita in the nation. In the 2000 Census, Rhode Island ranked 6th in the U.S. by percentage of the population over 65 (down from 5th in 1990) (source). Overall, the relative rate of change in demographics for this age group in Rhode Island was dead last of the 50 states (source).

With the Baby Boom Generation reaching retirement age, things could change, as predicted in the early '90's:
As the Baby Boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) reaches retirement age, the growth of the elderly population (65 and over) is expected to accelerate rapidly. The size of the elderly population is projected to increase in all states and the District of Columbia over the 30 year period. The proportion of Rhode Island's population classified as elderly is expected to increase from 15.7 percent in 1995 to 18.8 percent in 2025. Among the 50 states and District of Columbia, the state is projected to have the 3rd highest proportion of elderly in 1995 and the 34th highest proportion of elderly in 2025.
Whether these estimates still hold are unknown to me, but they do point to a trend where Rhode Island is on track, albeit slowly, to get younger. If this is so, then it can be inferred that more children will be born to families who may tend to favor conservative politics. Of course, this presumes belief in demography as being the main political influencer. Again, I have my doubts. However, to accept the theory on its face, the question that comes to my mind is this: For conservatives in Rhode Island, can we afford to wait for such demographic change to bolster our numbers or do we need to quicken the pace via persuasion? I would venture that the very existence of this blog reveals the feelings of some. Awaiting demographic trends to turn in one's favor strikes me as too passive. Carpe diem, after all.