“Family values” conservatives in the United States have more children and more siblings than their compatriots. These patterns reflect the tendency of the more religious and less educated to have larger families and more conservative views on the family. Among Protestants, denominational differences play a role, with fundamentalist groups exhibiting larger families, less education, and greater conservatism. The causal pathways are unclear, but the patterns reshape society: Traditional-family conservatism is more prevalent than it would have been if each person had the same population share as his or her parents. This demographic phenomenon raises opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion by 3 to 4 percentage points. It accounts for 7.9 million of the nation’s 54.8 million opponents to same-sex marriage.Abstract
Data from the General Social Survey indicate that higher-fertility individuals and their children are more conservative on “family values” issues, especially regarding abortion and same-sex marriage. This pattern implies that differential fertility has increased and will continue to increase public support for conservative policies on these issues. The association of family size with conservatism is specific to traditional-family issues and can be attributed in large part to the greater religiosity and lower educational attainment of individuals from larger families. Over the 2004 to 2018 period, opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion was 3 to 4 percentage points more prevalent than it would have been were traditional-family conservatism independent of family size in the current generation. For same-sex marriage, evolutionary forces have grown in relative importance as society as a whole has liberalized. As of 2018, differential fertility raised the number of US adults opposed to same-sex marriage by 17%, from 46.9 million to 54.8 million.