This Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial needs more attention —
A new report posits what many fathers of daughters already know — that having a daughter can change a man’s political perspective on women’s issues. …
… Having a daughter is likely to literally bring such issues home, forcing lawmakers to view them in real, not abstract, terms. It always helps to put a human face on an issue. It would seem even more so when that face is your child’s.
It may, as well, make it easier to recognize that reproductive choices belong in the personal province of a woman and her family, not the state.
The report is called “Female Socialization: How Daughters Affect Their Legislator Fathers’ Voting on Women’s Issues,” and it was written by Ebonya Washington for the National Bureau of Economic Research and dated January 2006. It is available for download for a $5 fee at the NBER web site. Here is a summary. I also found what might be a preliminary version of the report in PDF format — “Female Socialization: How Daughters Affect Their Legislator Fathersâ€™ Voting on Womenâ€™s Issues” by Ebonya Washington, Yale University, May 2005. It may not be exactly the same as the more recent NBER document, but it’s free.
Anyway, Washington looked at voting patterns in the 105th Congress and found that having daughters is a “positive and significant predictor” of how legislators vote on reproductive rights. I skimmed through the Yale version of the report and found these points:
1. The daughter effect is more pronounced in male legislators than in female legislators.
2. Although the daughter factor has some effect across all “gender gap” issues, it is most pronounced in the area of reproductive rights.
3. Point #2 is significant because public opinion polls on reproductive rights actually show less of a “gender gap” than some other issues, such as crime, defense, gay rights, and welfare spending. This suggests that fathers’ opinions are not changing just because they are exposed to their daughters’ points of view.
4. The older the daughter, the more pronounced is the daughter effect. It seems to grow over time.
You can glean more about factors and methodologies from the paper. There’s, like, tables and Greek letters and everything. The point is that the mere fact of having daughters, especially daughters approaching reproductive age, seems to have a statistically measurable impact on the way legislators, especially male legislators, vote regarding reproductive rights. (My skimming through the report didn’t tell me how big the daughter effect is; perhaps someone who understands statistical analysis could take a look and explain it. I would appreciate that muchly.)
I wrote recently that “whether one is pro-choice or anti-choice does not depend on whether one thinks embryos are human beings. It depends on whether one recognizes that women are human beings.” The study seems to corroborate this.