June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City,
was working on a book during the 2008 election. The subject matter helped her and her husband, William Black, who also teaches law at UMKC, win a guess-the-electoral-votes office pool.
Carbone and co-author Naomi Cahn began their research after 2004 election. They set out to understand why the so-called "values voters" tended to live in states with highest divorce and teen birth rates. Among those to note the correlation was Vanity Fair culture critic James Wolcott, who called miniature beauty pageant contestant JonBenet Ramsey "the pre-pubescent red-hot-mama mascot of red-state Babylon."
In Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation
of Culture, Carbone and Cahn describe how the divorce rates in
politically "blue" areas have fallen to 1960s levels. The authors
attribute the higher levels of harmony to couples delaying marriage and
childbirth until they complete their education and get their emotional
and financial bearings. prototypical red-state couple
At a talk at the UMKC chancellor's residence last week, Carbone said the "blue" family system is very conventional. The families in jeopardy are ones in which couples hold traditional ideas about gender roles but the husband doesn't make an income that allows the wife to stay at home. This dynamic increases susceptibility to a "family values" political message. "Anxiety about the family is real," Carbone said.
You can see Carbone's research playing out on the national stage. In an interview with The Pitch in 2008, Carbone predicted correctly that the young coupling of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston would struggle to remain intact. In today's economy, young, uneducated guys like Johnston can't earn a living that behooves the mothers of their children to stick around through the meathead years.
Bristol and Levi, a
Barack and Michelle Obama, by contrast, were both lawyers at the time they married, making them a prototypical "blue" couple.
Before the election that put the Obamas in the White House, Carbone looked at the drops in teen pregnancies in New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado and concluded that the states were ready to elect a Democrat. She was right.
For more on Red Families v. Blue Families, check out an essay that Carbone and Cahn recently published in The Christian Science Monitor.
prototypical red-state couple