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Probe Ministries > Culture and Society > Society > Realignment of America


Realignment of America Print E-mail

Written by Kerby Anderson

Introduction

In this article I want to talk about the realignment of America. We are witnessing some dramatic changes in this country. Some are political changes; some are economic changes; and some are geographic changes. If you are building a business, planting a church, or just trying to understand some of these fundamental changes, you need to pay attention to these changes in America.

First, we need to understand the times in which we are living. 1 Chronicles 12:32 says that the sons of Issachar were "men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do." Likewise we need to understand our time with knowledge of what we as Christians should do.

Second, we should also plan for the future. Isaiah 32:8 says that "the noble man devises noble plans, and by noble plans he stands." You, your family, and your church should have plans for the future based upon some of the things we will be discussing.

Proverbs 16:9 says "the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." So we should not only plan for the future, but commit those plans to the Lord and be sensitive to His leading in our lives.

One place where we see a dramatic shift in both attitudes and behavior is marriage. America is in the midst of redefining marriage. Some of these redefinitions are taking place in the legislatures and courtrooms. But marriage is also being redefined through cohabitation.

Over the last few decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has documented the increasing percentage of people who fit into the category of "adults living alone." These are often lumped into a larger category of "non-family households." Within this larger category are singles that are living alone as well as a growing number of unmarried, cohabiting couples that are "living together." The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that in 2000 there were nearly ten million Americans living with an unmarried opposite-sex partner and another 1.2 million Americans living with a same-sex partner.

These numbers are unprecedented. It is estimated that during most of the 1960s and 1970s, only about a half a million Americans were living together. And by 1980, that number was just 1.5 million.{1} Now that number is more than twelve million.

Cohabiting couples are also changing the nature of marriage. Researchers estimate that half of Americans will cohabit at one time or another prior to marriage. And this arrangement often includes children. The traditional stereotype of two young, childless people living together is not completely accurate; currently, some forty percent of cohabiting relationships involve children.{2}

Marriage may not yet be in the endangered species list, but many more couples are choosing to live together rather than get married. This is just one example of the realignment of America.

Geographic Realignment

Another realignment in America is geographic realignment. If you haven't noticed, people move around quite a bit. And I am not just talking about your neighbors who drove off the other day in a U-Haul truck. I am talking about the realignment of America.

I think we have all heard that the U.S. population is flowing from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt. But Michael Barone in an article in The Wall Street Journal explains that the trends are a bit more complex than that.{3} Let's start with what he calls the "Coastal Megalopolises" (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, etc.). Here you find that Americans are moving out and immigrants are moving in with a low net population growth.

Contrast this with what he called "the Interior Boomtowns." Their population has grown eighteen percent in six years. And this means that the nation's center of gravity is shifting. Dallas is now larger than San Francisco, Houston is larger than Boston, Charlotte is now larger than Milwaukee.

Another section would be the old Rust Belt. The six metro areas (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Rochester) have lost population since 2000. And you also have "the Static Cities." These eighteen metropolitan areas have little immigrant inflow and little domestic inflow or outflow.

The political impact of this realignment is significant. Many of the metro areas voted in significant proportions for John Kerry in 2004 while the Interior Boomtowns voted for George W. Bush. But there is more at stake than just the presidential election.

In less than two years we will have another census, and that will determine congressional districts. House seats and electoral votes will shift from New York, New Jersey, and Illinois to Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada.

That is why Michael Barone says in another column that it is time to throw out the old electoral maps.{4} The old maps with red states and blue states served us well for the last two presidential elections, but there is good evidence that it is now out-of-date. In 2000 and 2004, the Republicans nominated the same man, and the Democrats nominated men with similar views and backgrounds. All of that has changed in 2008.

It is clear that some of the states that went Democratic in 2004 may be available to Republicans. And it is also clear that some of the states that went Republican that same year are possibilities for the Democrats. And let's not forget the surge of new voters coming into the electoral process that are potentially available to either candidate.

Social scientists say: "Demography is destiny." That is a simple way of saying that demographic changes alter our future. But you don't have to be a social scientist to see the impact. We all know that people move around, and that changes the political landscape.

Political Realignment

In addition to marriage and geographical realignment, political realignment is also taking place due to differences in fertility. Does fertility affect voting patterns? Apparently it does much more than we realize. And this has been a topic of discussion for both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans.

Arthur Brooks wrote about the "Fertility Gap" in a column in The Wall Street Journal.{5} He said: "Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them . . . and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result."

Brooks noted that "...if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids." That is a "fertility gap" of forty-one percent.

We know that about eighty percent of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote essentially the same way as their parents. Brooks says that this "fertility gap" therefore "translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections." He also points out that over the past thirty years this gap has not been below twenty percent which he says explains to a large extent the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns.

Brooks also points out that the fertility gap "doesn't budge when we correct for factors like age, income, education, sex, race—or even religion." Even if all these factors are identical between a liberal and a conservative, "the liberal will still be 19 percentage points more likely to be childless than the conservative." This fertility gap is real and will no doubt affect politics for many years to come.

So what could this mean for future presidential elections? Consider the key swing state of Ohio which is currently split fifty-fifty between left and right. If current patterns continue, Brooks estimates that Ohio will swing to the right and by 2012 will be fifty-four percent to forty-six percent. By 2020, it will be solidly conservative by a margin of fifty-nine percent to forty-one percent.

Now look at the state of California that tilts in favor of liberals by fifty-five percent to forty-five percent. By the year 2020, it will be swing conservative by a percentage of fifty-four percent to forty-six percent. The reason is due to the "fertility gap."

Of course most people vote for politicians, personalities, and issues, not parties. But the general trend of the "fertility gap" cannot be ignored especially if Democrats continue to appeal to liberals and Republicans to conservatives.

Economic Realignment

Earlier we talked about political and geographical realignment in America. It turns out that some of that realignment is due to economic factors.

A recent survey by United Van Lines uncovers some interesting patterns of movement in America.{6} An average of twenty thousand Americans relocate across state lines each day for a record eight million Americans each year. The general pattern is for people to move from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West. But the details are even more interesting than the general trends.

The survey found that the most reliable indicator of movement was income tax. People tend to move from states with high income-tax rates to states with little or no income taxes. Families are leaving Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Now consider the eight states that have no income tax (Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming). Every one of these states gained in net domestic migrants. And each one except Florida (which has sky-high property taxes) "ranked in the top 12 of destination states."

In order to see the phenomenon in action, compare North Dakota to South Dakota. Both states are essentially the same in terms of geography and climate. But they couldn't be more different in terms of migration. North Dakota lost a greater percentage of citizens than any other state except Michigan. South Dakota ranked in the top twelve states in terms of net domestic migration. People are moving out of North Dakota, but they are moving to South Dakota in droves. North Dakota has an income tax. South Dakota does not.

For many years now, demographers have noted the flight of upper income, educated families from California. California is the only Pacific Coast state to lose migrant population in 2007. One of the major reasons is the fact that California has the highest state income tax in the nation. So now more than one and a half million Californians have left the state in the last ten years.

So where are many of these people going? They are moving to neighboring Nevada, which has no income tax. "High income Californians can buy a house in Las Vegas for the amount they save in three or four years by not paying California income taxes."

An old adage says high taxes don't redistribute income, they redistribute people. Once again we see the realignment of America. People vote with their feet, and it seems that taxes are one of the reasons they leave one state for another state.

Income Realignment

I would like to conclude by looking once again at economic statistics, but this time focus on family income. If you turn on a television or open a newspaper, and you are certain to hear or read someone say that the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. But would it surprise you to know that other governmental data says just the opposite?

The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau does seem to indicate that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. But these numbers do not reflect the economic improvement of individuals and families.

Data from the Internal Revenue Service does show this movement. It shows that people in the bottom fifth have nearly doubled their income in the last ten years. It also shows that the top one percent saw their incomes decline by twenty-six percent.{7}

Why do these two set of governmental statistics differ? It turns out that the IRS tracks people over time. After all, people don't stay in the same income brackets throughout their lives. Millions of people move from one bracket to another.

The IRS tracks people each year and thus reflects real changes to real people while the Census Bureau merely creates the illusion of tracking people. The best way to follow people is to actually follow people. That's what the IRS statistics do, and so they are more accurate.

What about the claims that family income has stagnated? First, we need to make a distinction between household income and per capita income. Household or family income can remain essentially unchanged for a decade while per capita income is increasing.

The reason is simple: the number of people per household and per family is declining. If annual household income is $60,000, the per capita income for a family of six would be $10,000 but for a family of three would be $20,000.

The difference in the number of people also affects economic statistics for different ethnic groups. Hispanics have higher household incomes than African-Americans. But blacks have higher individual incomes than Hispanics. The reason for the different is family size.

Second, we should also take a second look at the statistics that say income has stagnated. If we go back to the IRS numbers, we find that the average taxpayer's real income has increased by twenty-four percent in the last decade.

The point to all of this is that economic statistics can sometimes be misleading. They may be true but they lead to misleading conclusions.

As we've seen, there have been some dramatic shifts in the social, political, economic, and geographic nature of this country. A wise and discerning Christian will pay attention to this realignment and make wise plans for the future. Isaiah 32:8 says that "the noble man devises noble plans, and by noble plans he stands." As Christians we need to wisely plan for the future.

Notes

1. U. S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P20-537; America's Families and Living Arrangements: March 2000 and earlier reports.
2. Larry L. Bumpass, James A. Sweet, and Andrew Cherlin, "The Role of Cohabitation in the Declining Rates of Marriage," Journal of Marriage and Family 53 (1991), 926.
3. Michael Barone, "The Realignment of America," The Wall Street Journal, 8 May, 2007.
4. Michael Barone, "Throw Out the Old Electoral Maps in 2008," Townhall.com, 1 March 2008.
5. Arthur C. Brooks, "The Fertility Gap," The Wall Street Journal, 22 August 2006.
6. "States of Opportunity," The Wall Street Journal, 12 February 2008.
7. Thomas Sowell, "Income Confusion," Townhall.com, 21 November 2007.

© 2008 Probe Ministries


About the Author

Kerby AndersonKerby Anderson is president of Probe Ministries International. He holds masters degrees from Yale University (science) and from Georgetown University (government). He is the author of several books, including Christian Ethics in Plain Language, Genetic Engineering, Origin Science, Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope and Making the Most of Your Money in Tough Times. His new series with Harvest House Publishers includes: A Biblical Point of View on Islam, A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality, A Biblical Point of View on Intelligent Design and A Biblical Point of View on Spiritual Warfare. He is the host of "Point of View" (USA Radio Network) heard on 360 radio outlets nationwide as well as on the Internet (www.pointofview.net) and shortwave. He is also a regular guest on "Prime Time America" (Moody Broadcasting Network) and "Fire Away" (American Family Radio). He produces a daily syndicated radio commentary and writes editorials that have appeared in papers such as the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury, and the Houston Post.

 

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