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COMMUNITY VOICE

US headed for more conservative future, even if only by birth rates

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 12:01 am

Is the default position in American politics that of conservatism? If so, a study of fertility rates could result in a conservative dynasty in the United States.

Research shows that fertility is today highly correlated to both political and religious beliefs. That is, the more progressive and secular you are, the less likely you are to have a big family; the more conservative and religious you are, the larger your family is likely to be.

In religious Utah the birth rate is 92 children for every 1,000 women, the highest in the nation. By comparison, highly progressive Vermont (the first state to embrace gay unions) has the nation’s lowest fertility rate, just 51 kids per 1,000 women.

The trend seems clear: We’re headed for a more conservative future if only by default.

However, it may not be that cut and dried. As long as our society values critical thinking, it will continue to drive a wedge between the conservative young and their inherited assumptions.

As the current white majority in the United States continues on the road to its incipient minority status by 2050, two competing narratives dominate the debate about the ongoing ethnic and demographic transformation of America, and I think both narratives are off the mark a bit.

The first holds that non-European immigrants (meaning Mexicans) will rip apart the nation’s social fabric. But, with some minor differences, today’s Latinos are assimilating into U.S. society in ways not terribly unlike those of millions before them from Europe.

The second has it that the diversity of younger generations of Americans will inevitably lead to a more integrated, post-racial era. I think the most profound changes in America’s race relations will evolve around native-born white Americans. That is, we will continue to treat, whether we like it or not, minorities as parts and whites as representatives of the whole.

The most obvious impact will be political. Still the most crucial sociodemographic issue facing the country in the decade to come is how whites will accept their minority status. White supremacy still has not been completely eradicated, and it’s more prevalent (even if it is more phantom than reality) in some areas of the country than in others, especially the more rural areas.

Finally, we can expect to see the rise of a more defensive, aggrieved sense of white victimhood similar to the perceived sense of Christian victimhood that we are seeing today that will strain the social contract and undermine collectively shared notions of the common good.

But, on the bright side, we may be slow, but we usually end up on the right side of things.

B. J. Paschal, Ph.D., is a retired Ball State professor.