Why Republicans Hate Education

President Obama won the top 16 and 18 of the top 20 states (and D.C.) ranked according to educational attainment by a significant margin in the election yesterday. The exceptions were Kansas, ranked 17, and Utah, ranked 20. Probably no mystery why a state with a population over 60% Mormon voted overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney. Someone with more time can figure out Kansas , but if I were going to take a stab at it I would guess that Kansas has had a bit of a windfall from the discovery of natural gas or oil or both lately, and the "entrepreneurs" sitting on the land don't like paying taxes on the money they're "earning" by signing mineral rights contracts with energy companies.

It might also be worth thinking about why Romney managed to capture only 37.6% of the vote in his home state, where he recently served as governor – a state which, excluding D.C., ranks highest by most measures of educational attainment and home to two of the top ten colleges in the world. Based on the debates, I thought Massachusetts loved Mitt Romney.

Romney won 11 of 12 of the lowest ranking states convincingly, losing in only Nevada, but conservatives aren't really known for their love of gambling so probably no surprise there either. Seven of the ten lowest ranked states were aligned (more or less) with the confederacy during the civil war, and two weren't yet states, leaving Indiana as the only Union representative in the anti-education, anti-Obama, anti-Union South. Kentucky, stronghold of poverty and pot growers, appears to have voted against its own interests. And West Virginia, home to NBA great Jerry West, seems to dislike the president as much as it dislikes college.

Voting was much closer in the states ranked 21-39, where the split in voting roughly reflected the split between households that own more than one book and those that don't.

2012 voting statistics by educational attainment

Taxes on the wealthy and the unemployment rate

In case, for some reason, you found yourself convinced by Romney's (somewhat self-serving) argument that reducing taxes on the extremely wealthy creates jobs, here is a graph that charts the income tax rate paid by the richest Americans against the percentage of the population that is unemployed.

Since the twenties, the three times that the top tax rate was reduced to near or below 30% were right before the Great Depression, right before the recession that began around 1990, and right before the last recession that we're still trying to dig out of. Perhaps coincidentally ;), these slumps also coincide with periods of lax oversight of banking and investment ("regulations").

In case you're having trouble understanding this chart, what it is showing is that, not only is the unemployment rate not positively correlated with taxes on the wealthy, it is inversely related, and in statistical terms, the inverse relationship is very, very strong, meaning that the odds are less than 1 in 10,000 that the relationship is due to chance. Put simply, raising taxes on the wealthy (to a point) is good for employment in America, and paradoxically, good for the wealthy since most wealth in America is derived from the spending power of the middle class (the real job creators) – so the next time you hear a line about taxing the "job creators," direct them to this chart and get ready for a lesson on rationalization. (If you really feel like getting into the data on tax rates and unemployment, it turns out that the strongest positive relationship between tax rates and employment is between the tax rate assessed on tax-payers at the 20th percentile in terms of earnings and unemployment, so based on the real economic history of the U.S., the only reliable, straightforward way to reduce unemployment by adjusting tax rates is to reduce taxes on the poorest Americans – maybe because very few 20th percentile earners invest in derivatives, hedge funds, or foreign currency, or hide their earnings in tax free safe-deposit boxes in the Cayman Islands.)

Of course, in order to be convinced by data, you would have to be educated enough to find and understand the data -- but that's not what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want. "Reality has a liberal bias." (Colbert)

And because I know that conservatives are only skeptical when someone says something that they don't want to believe, I would invite anyone who would like to investigate on his or her own to do so. The educational data is from 2009 (the newest/best available) through the U.S. Census Bureau website, the election results are available on politico.com, and the unemployment chart was created by a statistical analysis program called STATA using data from the sources below. I've also included a couple of reading suggestions.

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Bartels, Larry M. 2008. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age. Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press.

Bureau of Economic Analysis: United States Department of Commerce. "National Income and Products Account Table (NIPA)." [http://www.bea.gov/national/nipaweb/TableView.asp?SelectedTable=1&FirstYear=2009&LastYear=2010&Freq=Qtr]. November 2010.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: United States Department of Labor. "Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population, 1940 to date." [http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaa1.pdf]. Downloaded on 11/23/2010.

Hibbs, Douglas A. 1987. The American Political Economy: Macroeconomics and Electoral Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kopczuk, Wojciech. 2005. "Tax bases, tax rates and the elasticity of reported income1." Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 89: 2093-2119.

Tax Foundation. U.S. Federal Individual Income Tax Rates History; 1913-2010. [http://www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/151.html]. November 2010.

United States Census Bureau. "Table H-1. Income Limits for Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent of All Households: 1967 to 2009." [http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/household/index.html] November

Raw Data

  Percentage of state population with a bachelor's degree or higher Percentage of state population with an advanced degree Percentage of state population voting for President Obama
District of Columbia 48.5 28 91.4
Massachusetts 38.2 16.4 60.8
Colorado 35.9 12.7 51.2
Maryland 35.7 16 61.2
Connecticut 35.6 15.5 57.9
New Jersey 34.5 12.9 57.9
Virginia 34.0 14.1 50.8
Vermont 33.1 13.3 67
New York 32.4 14 62.7
New Hampshire 32.0 11.2 52.2
Minnesota 31.5 10.3 52.8
Washington 31.0 11.1 55.2
Illinois 30.6 11.7 57.3
Rhode Island 30.5 11.7 63.1
California 29.9 10.7 59.1
Hawaii 29.6 9.9 70.6
Kansas 29.5 10.2 37.9
Oregon 29.2 10.4 53.4
Delaware 28.7 11.4 58.6
Utah 28.5 9.1 24
Georgia 27.5 9.9 45.4
Montana 27.4 8.3 42.1
Nebraska 27.4 8.8 37.8
Maine 26.9 9.6 56.4
Alaska 26.6 9 41.5
North Carolina 26.5 8.8 48.4
Pennsylvania 26.4 10.2 51.9
North Dakota 25.8 6.7 38.9
Wisconsin 25.7 8.4 52.8
Arizona 25.6 9.3 43.4
Texas 25.5 8.5 41
Florida 25.3 9 49.9
New Mexico 25.3 10.4 52.9
Missouri 25.2 9.5 44.3
Iowa 25.1 7.4 52.1
South Dakota 25.1 7.3 39.9
Michigan 24.6 9.4 53.7
South Carolina 24.3 8.4 43.7
Ohio 24.1 8.8 50.1
Idaho 23.9 7.5 32.6
Wyoming 23.8 7.9 28
Tennessee 23.0 7.9 39
Oklahoma 22.7 7.4 33.2
Indiana 22.5 8.1 43.8
Alabama 22.0 7.7 38.4
Nevada 21.8 7.6 52.3
Louisiana 21.4 6.9 39.8
Kentucky 21.0 8.5 37.8
Mississippi 19.6 7.1 43.6
Arkansas 18.9 6.1 36.9
West Virginia 17.3 6.7 35.5