The Thinking 
Housewife
 

How the Women’s Vote Led to Big Government

November 13, 2014

 

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FROM a fascinating working paper written in 1999 by John R. Lott, Jr. and Larry Kenny of the University of Chicago Law School, who examined in detail the effects of women’s suffrage:

Giving women the right to vote dramatically changed American politics from the very beginning. Despite claims to the contrary, the gender gap is not something that has arisen since the 1970s. Suffrage coincided with immediate dramatic increases in state government expenditures and revenue, and these effects continued growing as more women took advantage of franchise. Similar changes occurred at the federal level as female suffrage led to more liberal voting records for the state’s two Congressinal delegations. In the Senate, suffrage changed voting behavior by an amount equal to almost 20 percent of the difference between Republican and Democrat senators. Suffrage also coincided with changes in the probability that prohibition would be enacted and changes in divorce laws. We were also able to deal with questions of causality by taking advantage of the fact that while some states voluntarily adopted suffrage others where compelled to do so by the 19th Amendment. The conclusion was that suffrage dramatically changed government in both cases. Accordingly, the effects of suffrage we estimate are not reflecting some other factor present in only states that adopted suffrage.

Not all women immediately took advantage of the right to vote. About half of the ultimate percent of women who eventually voted in elections appeared to have started voting immediately after suffrage was granted and most of those women were in the 45 to 64 year old age group.

More work remains to be done on why women vote so differently, but our initial work provides scant evidence that it is due to self-interest arising from their employment by government. The only evidence that we found indicated that the gender gap in part arises from women’s fear that they are being left to raise children ontheir own. If this result is true, the continued breakdown of the family and higher divorce rates implies growing political conflicts between the sexes. The data also show that marriage does not eliminate all the difference between men and women.

Interestingly, we also find that both women and men care a lot more whether the Democrat is a woman or a man than they care about the sex of the Republican candidate. Women flock to a female Democrat as quickly as men desert them. Future work should examine whether in fact a candidate’s sex appears to primarily predict the voting behavior of Democrat candidates.

Claims that the gender gap has arisen as men have left the Democrat party and that the “modern” gender gap has only arisen since the 1970’s can now be put in a different perspective (Stark, 1996, p. 78). Combining these claims with our work implies that the gender gap disappeared during the 1960’s and 1970’s as men moved towards women, but that it reappeared again when men moved back to their original position relative to women. Indeed, the 1960’s and 1970’s witnessed one of the largest fundamental increases in government both in terms of entitlements and regulations. Obviously, our work suggests also additional tests that can be done with cross-country data, but we believe that the data put together for the current paper still presents a comprehensive start to this question.

— Comments —

Neil writes:

I seem to recall reading that the Catholic Church fought giving women the “right” to vote in Quebec until the ’40s.  But now everything has changed.  When California had a ballot referendum to end affirmative action, Cardinal Mahoney opposed it because, in part, it would deny women their opportunity to advance in the work place.  Wonder why Mahoney thought children would be better off at secular day care with mommy at work having her self-esteem increased.

I think liberalism is a nightmare from which we are all trying to awake.  But I think it’s going to be a long sleep.

Terry Morris writes:

The report indicates that only about half of the ultimate percentage of women voters took advantage of their new found ‘right’ immediately following passage of the 19th Amendment, most of whom were in the 45-64 year-old category. And yet, … “Giving women the right to vote dramatically changed American Politics from the very beginning.” … “Suffrage coincided with immediate dramatic increases in state government expenditures and revenue, …” Ditto at the federal level.

This is all no big surprise to some of us, but merely confirmation of what our experiences teach us is likely the case on a broader scale. There seem to be some among us, though, who cling to the idea that women past their child-bearing years can be trusted with the vote on the whole, at least given the right set of circumstances otherwise. The findings of the study, however, indicate differently. The evidence shows in this particular study that on the whole even the average (white) grandmother isn’t to be trusted with the vote. Unless, of course, you’re a liberal who believes “dramatic increases in government expenditures and revenues” (higher taxes, inflating the currency, massive debt and all the rest) are good things.

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