When it comes to family, red states have a bad reputation. From the media to the academy, red states have acquired a reputation for talking a conservative game regarding family, but utterly failing to deliver on their old-school aspirations in the real world. The most thoughtful proponents of this view, scholars Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, have argued that the “red” family model—which discourages premarital sex, encourages younger marriage, restricts abortion access, and idealizes the male-breadwinner/female-homemaker family—is simply unworkable, and maybe even destructive, in today’s world. They point to comparatively high divorce and teen pregnancy rates in many red states as one sign that the red state model has outlived its usefulness.
But Wilcox and Zill do a regression analysis of the data, taking education and ethnicity into account.
There are two key takeaways from our analysis. First, one key reason the bluest states have a high share of children in intact families is that they are home to comparatively high numbers of college-educated adults, who tend to get and stay married nowadays.
Second, adjusting for education and race/ethnicity transforms the relationship between the Red State Index and marital upbringing from a curvilinear to a linear one. The redder the state, the more likely is a teen to grow up with his or her married birth parents. The relationship is modest but statistically significant. For every ten-point increase in the Red State Index, the proportion of teens living with both parents rises by one percentage point. This suggests that red state family culture is associated with increased odds of being raised in an intact, married family.