Kids Today, with their Music and their Haircuts!
During my discussions of fertility, birth rates, population decline, and the future, I have been fairly direct in my conclusions – the future population of the Earth will be smaller and more religious. I have had a surprising number of people counter that religious and political beliefs are not a matter of parentage, but of ideology. As one person stated ‘just because your parents are religious and Conservative doesn’t mean you will be’. Granted, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that some people from religious homes grow up to be atheists. And some people raised atheists become religious.
Statistically, however, the children of parents with ‘identifiable beliefs’ (i.e., they have an opinion on politics or religion strong enough to express it) are most likely to share their parents’ beliefs when they reach adulthood. The development of your political and religious outlook, called political socialization and religious socialization respectively, has been studied, especially in the last 25 years or so, and shows that most adults reflect the religious and political attitudes of their parents. The various ‘socialization factors’ that lead to our ideological development include family, school, peer groups, major events, workplace, marriage, etc. By far the most critical factor is the family, especially since the vast majority of political and religious beliefs are developed in childhood. Even the second most influential element, school, pales in comparison, even when attempts are made to directly influence political outlook with concerted school efforts. Indeed, researchers are coming to suspect that the main influence of school is as an environment where children learn the skills needed to promote and defend the beliefs developed at home. Thus, while major changes in life (leaving home for college, entering the military, marriage and parenthood) can cause something called ‘resocialization’, or seemingly-dramatic changes is behavior and outlook, the large majority of adults mirror the political and religious beliefs of their parents. Research also indicates that, for children of Conservatives or Liberals, the majority of those who do not mirror family beliefs become moderates, not members of the opposite extreme.
There is some evidence that Liberals/Mainline Religious families have lower rates of positive socialization (i.e., their kids are more likely to not be Liberals than Conservative children are to not be Conservatives). This seems to be especially true of Mainline Religious families who may have Liberal children, but those children are less likely to be religious. The biggest problem for Mainline Protestants and religious socialization is that Mainline Protestants are usually intermittent church-goers, and thus their children are less likely to be religious.
In brief: Liberals are likely to have Liberals kids and Conservatives are likely to have Conservative kids, but a higher percentage of Conservatives’ kids are like their parents. Devout parents tend to have devout kids, but lukewarm parents tend to have unchurched kids. Got it? OK.
Let us draw some conclusions. Given identical populations and birthrates, over time there would be a tendency of a group to slowly become more Conservative, since Conservatives have a slightly higher positive political socialization. Concurrently the level of religious participation would tend to sort out into devout and unchurched with fewer and fewer ‘sometimes’ attendees.
This leads to the second argument that I tend to hear: ‘If socialization patterns favor Conservatism’, I am asked, ‘why the dominance of Liberal ideas in the 20th Century?’ The answer to this lies in another element of political socialization – major political events. Let’s skip the potentially-huge discussion of if the Democrats were really Liberal (as we currently use the term) pre-WWII and focus on a few events [This also allows me to skip the discussion of ethnic alignment with political party and its decline, etc.]. The first is the Great Depression. This led to a slight preference towards Democrats because of their support of social welfare programs. This tendency was reversing itself when the next political event came along,
However, even with these major events, and supporting events like Watergate, there was never a dominance of either Democratic Party or Liberal/Leftist influence in
To put it another way, there was no dominance of Liberal ideas in the 20th Century. In my opinion, the late 19th and early- to mid- 20th Centuries are remarkable for the (relatively limited) levels of success Liberal/Left ideas actually enjoyed.
Besides, the growth of Socialism, Communism, major wars, and political scandals and their cumulative bolstering of the Left all pale in comparison to the effects of demographic shift in the last 40 years.
The facts are clear – Liberals have fewer children than Conservatives. Much more directly, the devoutly religious have many more children than the non-religious, and the impact of religiosity on fertility seems to be growing over time. A study out of
Using the generic “80% of children share their parents’ political and religious affiliation” (instead of the ‘97% of the children of very devout homeschooling Conservatives share their parents’ values’) that means that about 40% of the next generation will behave in a similar fashion, representing a 50% growth in relative numbers in a single generation. With
In the end, I stand by my position, which is: the demographic shift we are currently experiencing will lead to population that is increasingly religious and Conservative.