What Can Save the Republican Party?

It’s not news that non-Hispanic whites (that is, gringos, whatever you want to call them; the common white US resident of mostly European descent) in the US are seeing net population declines. As a matter of fact, the numbers show that Hispanics have very high birth rates, shadowed only by non-Hispanic blacks (that is, blacks not of Latin American descent):

Minorities accounted for 93.3% of the nation’s population growth from April 1, 2010 (Census day) to July 1, 2011…

Among Hispanics, the total fertility rate is 2.4. For non-Hispanic whites and for non-Hispanic Asians, it is 1.8. Non-Hispanic blacks (2.1) have higher fertility than whites but lower fertility than Hispanics.

That is according to the Pew Research Center.

Essentially, if this trend keeps up, non-Hispanic whites will be a minority (47%) by 2050.

For the politically minded, this may sound disastrous for the Republican Party but that may not necessarily be the case. For those who aren’t aware, the Republican Party generally – and more so as time goes on – depends on the non-Hispanic while voter in order to maintain its political hold in the US. Hispanics generally vote with Democrats in almost landslide numbers and non-Hispanic blacks vote with the Democratic Party in almost unanimous numbers. Ceteris paribus, this trend tells us that if the non-Hispanic white population goes down, so will the number of voters for the Republican Party.

That, however, is taking only a singular metric into play. While it may seem like the typical Republican Voter may become the minority and, as a result, damage the Republican Party, a more nuanced approach is necessary.

Nothing will last forever and in the US, as the Pew Research Center notes, the majority of the US immigrant population is very young and, as a result, they seem much more fertile now; this may not necessarily be true by 2050 unless we see more Hispanic immigrants enter the US. It’ll take time to recognize whether the fertility rate for Hispanics in the US will remain 2.4 or go up or down (it’s likelier it will go down).

Tom Edsall wonders whether the new Democratic coalition is fragile in the New York Times. With the above alone, you could make the argument that it’s strong and will get stronger, however he notes that Second Demographic Transition (SDT) gives further detail on the population shift that needs to go into consideration.

He quotes Ron Lesthaeghe and Lisa Neidert of the University of Michigan Population Studies Center who define SDT:

postponement of marriage, greater prevalence of cohabitation and same sex households, postponement of parenthood, sub-replacement fertility, and a higher incidence of abortion.

In other words, this may strongly account for the decrease in the of the non-Hispanic white population rate (1.8). Non-Hispanic whites are declining in population partly because they have other priorities beyond breeding; they are putting things off either due to lack of money or wealth; they prioritize their careers over settling down, marrying and having babies; culture itself has something to do with it.

Looking closer at the data, however, you see a key difference between the white Republican voter and the white Democratic voter.

Lesthaeghe and Neidert ranked geographic areas on the basis of this composite measure and found that some of the strongest correlations were with voting behavior. On a county-by-county basis, their analysis is illustrated by the map of the United States in Figure 2. The darker the blue, the more advanced the area is into the “Second Demographic Transition;” the darker the brown, the less advanced into the S.D.T.

04edsall-2-blog427-v4

You may recognize the similarities of the map in Figure 2 to Election Day maps from last year…

SDT is more prominent in areas that generally vote for the Democratic Party and less so in areas that vote for the Republican Party. Basically, while non-Hispanic white populations may be decreasing as a whole, the non-Hispanic white Democratic voter is disappearing faster than the non-Hispanic white Republican voter.

Depending on how the numbers fare, and that would take a statistician instead of lowly blogger, this may balance the scales between the Democratic Party (with a strong minority vote behind it) and the Republican Party (with a solidly non-White Hispanic vote behind it). It may not net the Republican Party many presidencies between now and 2050, or in the future beyond that point in time, but that doesn’t mean the Republican Party will lose its hold over the federal legislature.

Then again, perhaps the dearth of popular representation in the Senate which gives more power to states with smaller, thinner populations than states with more people (making people’s vote count less in more populous, urbanized states), will force the way we count senators to change.

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