Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Having Daughters Makes Men More Liberal

There are several studies here that support this contention.  The most recent is February 14, 2014 paper, Identifying Judicial Empathy:  Does Having Daughters Cause Judges to Rule for Women's Issues?  by Adam Glynn and Maya Sen.

In this paper, we ask whether personal relationships can affect the way that judges decide cases. To do so, we leverage the natural experiment of a child's gender to identify the effect of having daughters on the votes of judges. Using new data on the family lives of U.S. Courts of Appeals judges, we find that, conditional on the number of children a judge has, judges with daughters consistently vote in a more feminist fashion on gender issues than judges who have only sons. This result survives a number of robustness tests and appears to be driven primarily by Republican judges. More broadly, this result demonstrates that personal experiences influence how judges make decisions, and it is the first paper to show that empathy may indeed be a component in how judges decide cases.

This follows a 2008 study,  Daughters and Left-Wing Voting by  Andrew J. Oswald
and Nattavudh Powdthavee
What determines human beings’ political preferences? Using nationally representative longitudinal data, we show that having daughters makes people more likely to vote for left-wing political parties. Having sons leads people to favor right-wing parties. The paper checks that our result is not an artifact of family stopping-rules, discusses the predictions from a simple economic model, and tests for possible reverse causality.
 Oswald and Powdthavee reference two earlier studies.
Warner (1991) and Warner and Steel(1999) study American and Canadian mothers and fathers.  The authors’ key finding is that support for policies designed to address gender equity is greater among parents with daughters. This result emerges particularly strongly for fathers. Because parents invest a significant amount of themselves in their children, the authors argue, the anticipated and actual struggles that offspring face, and the public policies that tackle those, matter to those parents.
In the words of Warner and Steel (1999), “child rearing might provide a mechanism for social change whereby fathers' connection with their daughters undermines ...patriarchy”.

All this comes originally from a link to MetaFilter sent by a close relative.  The comments at MetaFilter offer lots of interesting follow up thoughts, particularly warnings that these are statistical predictions, and, of course, you will be able to find individual cases that don't seem to bear this out.  Someone pointed to Antonin Scalia who has four daughters.  But another pointed out that the study says the prediction doesn't work when there are more than five children. (Wikipedia says Scalia also has five sons.)

This makes sense in that when people know people in other conditions well, they are more likely to sympathize with their situation.  From a Harvard Magazine artilce on How Same-Sex Marriage Came to Be:
"Perhaps the most important was that the proportion of Americans who reported knowing someone gay increased from 25 percent in 1985 to 74 percent in 2000. Knowing gay people strongly predicts support for gay rights; a 2004 study found that 65 percent of those who reported knowing someone gay favored gay marriage or civil unions, versus just 35 percent of those who reported not knowing any gays."
 I couldn't find a citation in the article for the 2000 study, but here are some longitudinal data on the these questions from Gallup.

Food for thought.  Thanks to S


  1. Fascinating! Jives with my personal experience... My father had four sons by a previous marriage. After he married my mother, there were the two of us girls. Over my lifetime, I saw him move from being pretty conservative about feminist issues to being quite radical. Perhaps this is because he witnessed what happened to his daughters compared to what happened to his sons. The change was quite remarkable. He was the one, in fact, to introduce me to feminism in 1968, when I was in 9th grade. Thanks for posting this, S. I enjoyed quite a bit.

  2. There is a lot more research on this to consider: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/it-s-man-s-and-woman-s-world/201312/how-daughters-change-fathers


    Also, having sisters has been shown to be related with being more ideologically conservative: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/27/why-boys-with-sisters-are-more-likely-to-be-republicans/

    1. Thanks for the links to the articles with counter findings. I'm still digesting them.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.