Jonathan Last's book, recently released and pictured here, was a very interesting look at plummeting fertility rates in the United States. It's also, somehow, quite funny, engaging personally thought-provoking. I'm not surprised that book clubs across the country are reading it (if my Facebook wall is any indication of that trend ...).
In his latest piece for The Weekly Standard, he looks at some interesting research looking at median home values, marriage rates and GOP voting.
Turns out it's not just love -- but also voting Republican -- that goes together with marriage. That whole Sandra Fluke thing makes so much more sense now, eh?
Anyway, the long and the short of Last's piece is that, "In the same way no politician ever misses an opportunity to extol the virtues of college, Republicans should insistently be making the case for marriage."
This isn’t a heavy lift. There’s an enormous amount of research demonstrating that marriage makes people happier, healthier, and wealthier. The most recent addition to the literature came just a few weeks ago in the form of a report titled Knot Yet, by Kay Hymowitz, Brad Wilcox, Jason Carroll, and Kelleen Kaye, which examined the same delayed-marriage phenomenon that Hawley was studying in his model.
The Knot Yet authors have put together a list of policy ideas that could help Americans get to marriage earlier. For starters, Republicans could champion nontraditional degrees and vocational training instead of robotically pushing the universal four-year degree, which these days too often comes with a crushing load of debt. When Republicans talk about reforming the tax code they ought to advocate measures that will make family formation more affordable—like increased child tax credits—and be wary of plans—like removing the mortgage-interest deduction—which could make it more difficult.
Other ideas abound. Lately some Republicans have become obsessed with trying to outbid Democrats on issues, such as immigration and same-sex marriage, which do not offer any obvious political advantages. If they’re going to get into bidding wars, why not do it over a suite of issues that could actually bear electoral fruit? For instance, today Democrats are the only ones promoting family-friendly workplace policies. Hawley’s research suggests that Republicans ought to be competing in this space, too, helping to mitigate the professional costs young men and women incur by entering marriage and family life, and thus encouraging more of them to take the plunge.
As the party of commerce and free markets, Republicans are constitutionally disposed toward prizing economic growth, job creation, and lower taxes, which is fine, so far as these things go. But regaining the White House and becoming a majority party again will require more than that. Instead of flitting from one political fad to the next, the GOP ought to be fixating on the foundational questions that most influence voting behavior: encouraging young men and women to get hitched and lowering the financial barriers for those ready to tie the knot.
Sociologists have long acknowledged the good societal outcomes of such behavior. George Hawley has demonstrated in no uncertain terms the good political outcomes. If the Republican strategists don’t take note, they’ll deserve to keep losing elections.