Monday, April 14, 2008

Small-town folks are not clinging, they're de-clinging

Obama's claim that small town people cling to guns and religion because of job difficulties reveals elite Americans' over-use of economic explanations for behavior. Don't get me wrong--money is important--but there are many other things that drive behavior as well.

I come from that part of America and have watched those folks embrace gun culture and religion through the good times and the bad times--it didn't matter. The simplest explanation for these traditions is... uh... tradition. People have been doing these things for a long time, and many see no reason not to continue.

But that's not exactly right. I suspect that the Andy Griffiths types are "clinging" less to these activities as modern culture increasingly has its way with them. As usual, let's look at the General Social Survey.

Mean church attendance score for small-town working class

1972 4.44
1982 3.97
1993 3.81
2002 3.61
2006 3.41

Four means "once a month" and three means "several times a year." There has been a big drop in attendence among these folks.

Look at the graph above to see the same kind of story for guns. While small-town people are still more likely to have guns than urban dwellers, the numbers have fallen significantly since the early 70s. It really shouldn't surprise you very much: their WalMarts sell Playstations too.

So this demographic is not reacting against economic troubles: it is gradually joining the secular Couch Potatoes found in the rest of the country.


  1. I have a GSS post on race and guns here.

  2. Arthur Brooks in the Wall Street Journal uses the GSS to show gun-owners are happier, less outraged about others, and make significantly more money than non gun owners.

  3. jason: Right, and contrary to stereotype, blacks are significantly less likely to own.

    The demographics of ownership do not support the idea that gun possession raises the risk of committing a violent crime.


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