October 20, 2012

JOEL KOTKIN: Demographic Dead End? Barack Obama’s Single Nation.

Democrats have woken up to the huge political rifts that have emerged over the past 30 years—between married and single people, and people with kids and those who don’t have them. And save African Americans, there may be no constituency more loyal to the president and his party than the growing ranks of childless and single Americans. . . . Unmarried women (along with ethnic minorities, the poor and the workers in the public bureaucracy) are rapidly becoming a core constituency of the Democratic party, in a sense replacing the ethnic white working class. . . .

But the Single Nation’s grip on power may not be sustainable for more than a generation. After all they, by definition, will have no heirs. This, notes author Eric Kauffman, hands the long-term advantage to generally more conservative family-oriented households, who often have two or more offspring. Birth rates among such conservative populations such as Mormons and evangelical Christians tend to be twice as high than those of the nonreligious.

As a result, Kauffman predicts that inevitably “the religious will inherit the earth” and ensure that conservative, more familial-oriented values inevitably prevail. Even among generally liberal groups like Jews, the orthodox and affiliated are vastly out-birthing their secular counterparts; by some estimates roughly two in five New York Jews is orthodox, including three quarters of the city’s Jewish children. If these trends continue, politics even in the progressive nirvana of Gotham may be pulled somewhat to the right.

But in the here and now, and especially this November, these long-term trends will not yet be evident. The tsunami of Chasidic and Mormon children are not yet eligible to vote, and won’t be for a decade or two. So even as the president loses among the married, the growing ranks of the Single Nation could still assure his reelection, and propel his party’s ascendency for a decade or more before the whole trend crashes against a demographic wall.

Well, birthrates have fallen significantly in Obama’s presidency, so he’s got that.

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