Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The big sort of?

Alan Ehrenhalt, author of two very good books, reviews The Big Sort, which disucces how "diversity" might be driving us into relatively homogeneous enclaves. Ehrenhalt is semi-persuaded that we’re inclined to choose to live close to people more or less like ourselves politically. The book looks interesting enough to assign in a class this fall.

My question: is the sorting driven by politics or is it a product of considerations like "family-friendliness," income, and education? If, for example, I have a growing family and either can’t afford private schools or have to choose between carrying a mortgage burden or a tuition burden, I might sort myself into a suburb or exurb. If I don’t have kids or if I can cover tuition and a big mortgage payment, I have the wherewithal to live in an "interesting" urban or suburban neighborhood. It’s obviously more complicated than this, but, once again, I’m busy.

Discussions - 6 Comments

There is at least one sociological study showing people feel less safe in heterogeneous residential populations, independent of pigments and cultures. May have been cited in a Cato paper on diversity.
Seems pretty obvious on its face to me. We're herd creatures and prefer to run with our own kind.

Great personal attempt to tackle something similar for my urban economics class resulted in nothing but an incomplete.(I doubt I will ever finish the paper or the degree) The coinnage "tipping point" is the work of urban economists. There are so many studies on the matter (most of them not that great, perhaps because they wanted to hurry it so they could get the grade, grab the Phd or collect the money for the grant?)

My guess is that the best stuff is closely guarded by business and consultants and requires a specialized expertise to decipher, and even then is probably somewhat disapointing in scope. Mark Penn on team Clinton is among the gurus here.

Of course you will have to decide what these economists mean by the word "is". For a lot of these folks they have isolated so many corrolations between politics and considerations like familly friendliness, income and education that they might not consider these things to be seperate spheres. In fact if in a model we can discover something significant between commute to work place and housing prices...what is to say from the methodology(espistemology)of the economist that we can't discern a particular corrolation between politics and work commute? In fact Mark Penn I am sure has found corrolations. Supercommuters tend to be good Hillary Clinton "Microtrends".

Ultimately I don't think a majority of economist would hazzard to explain human behavior with seperate priveledged causes, that is to say that all factors are factored in and we can't say that joe decided to live in this neighborhood because all of the people shared his political view anymore than we can say that he decided to live here because of work commute, police, schools, public goods, we can only say this by adopting certain premises ceteris paribus. Of course it is possible that vectors exists between public goods and the politics of the citizens, if you are interested in raising children you don't want to be harrased at school board meetings with people who want to vote against the levy, but this is still one consideration among many. Politics is thus also reduced to a vector. It is still just another vector among many vectors and economists have an interest in maintaining the vectorness of the thinking to escape the charge of ideology, and because the primary interest even when hired as consultants is predictive power.

Lets put it this way, suppose you are a deep thinking constitutional scholar who is trying to predict how the supreme court will decide a particular case...the factors that you consider are much more nuanced and serious than a basic model that looks at the court of origin and a few other factors that economists have regressed to determine historical vectorness...but as Ian Ayres points out in Supercrunchers...the model beat the legal scholars in predictive power.

I don't know what direction you want to take your class, but I am not sure they are prepared to interpret the findings of urban economists without a sort of primer into how these people think, and supercrunchers is the primer par excellence.

In a certain sense this is related to why people live in different enclaves...they have different modes of thought, different expertise, different standards, different predictive models...diversity is not simple at all and we live in a very Tower of Babel time.

Robert Putnam has apparently demonstrated an inverse relationship between diversity and trust. It is intuitive when one thinks about it, but not quite "obvious," as Tom said. The reason is liberal indoctrination.

We are drifting into a situation where conservatives do society's "grunt work," be it blue-collar or white-collar, and liberals have the vast majority of not only interesting jobs, but prestigious jobs. Liberal control of the professions, and increasingly of high-level corporate life, drives conservatives into relatively lesser socioeconomic status. Conservatives are also more likely to have children, and therefore to worry about them and spend money on them, and, for this and for psychological reasons and their greater religiosity, to hunker down into a family-church-neighborhood lifestyle. They are being driven to exurbs and interior states by economics, but also by the increasing difficulty of raising children -- or even living with one's self-respect -- in towns and states where liberal machines have a political death grip and their liberal neighbors or bosses are in charge of civil society.

By your reasoning, David Frisk, conservatives ought to be in good shape in the next generation. The liberals will have died off, because they did not reproduce, and those multitudes of children raised with conservative values are the folk left in the majority. In another twenty years or so, we ought not have to hunker down in exurban exile.

Kate, I don't think the argument holds up. One, Hispanics are essentially liberal in their voting behavior, and there are more and more of them. Two, "children raised with conservative values" is an extremely ambiguous category. People can lose their conservative values. If (relative) conservatives raise most of the kids, but the liberals in the teaching profession and Hollywood then turn them around (with assists from liberal kids, who tend to be more articulate and confident in their views), it would appear that conservatives reap no political rewards for their harder work, while relatively childless liberals win the minds of kids they didn't raise. Then, there's the frequent mismatch between values and votes. People can vote liberal -- knowingly or unknowingly -- despite their conservative values. This is the essential political meaning of the liberal MSM, which remains enormously powerful among the low-information majority of voters. Finally, people can be raised with conservative values but also with liberal political beliefs. Many kids raised in nominally conservative families aren't necessarily learning a damned thing about political conservatism, occasional flag-waving aside.

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