# Blue States really are better than Red States

Wow! I’ve read the Red/Blue question debated in various places and often hear that it’s an oversimplification and the supposed differences aren’t real. It occurred to me to put this to the test, as I can do some statistical analysis and programming and there are some very nice data on the web. It looks to me like there are many real differences and they all support the idea that Blue States actually ARE superior. That is, the things that have higher values in Blue States all seem to me like good things, and the things that have higher values in Red States all seem bad to me. Comments anyone?

Here’s my study:

This analysis considers statistics reported on WWW.StateMaster.com (though the statistic about taking the SAT came from a federal government site). They have more detailed explanations about what each statistic actually reports. The analysis is a “T Test” performed using the SAS System (SAS institute, Cary, NC).

First column is Student’s T value by Satterthwaite’s method assuming unequal variances (A separate analysis demonstrated unequal variances are the better assumption). Positive sign indicates the value is higher for Blue states than for Red.

Second column is the probability that random numbers would appear this different between Red and Blue states. This is the “Confidence” level. Pr=0.05 means 95% confidence level (which is the most typical level taken to imply statistical significance).

Third column is a brief description of the statistic being tested.
Larger for Blue States, Confidence > 98%
T Pr Description
6.77 <.0001 Median income for women
5.94 <.0001 Median income per family
5.78 <.0001 Median income for men
5.71 <.0001 Median income per househoold
5.58 <.0001 “Nest Egg” index of savings
5.31 <.0001 Bachelor’s degrees per capita
5.30 <.0001 Patents per capita
5.02 <.0001 Advanced degrees per capita
4.18 0.0002 Percent of <6 year old children read to
4.15 0.0002 School expenditures per capita
3.99 0.0003 % Students who take SAT
3.39 0.0020 Gross State Product per capita
3.09 0.0041 “Best Educated” index
2.93 0.0052 % Immunized
2.70 0.0121 Library capital expenditures per capita
2.69 0.0103 % Student math proficiency, 8th grade
2.49 0.0163 % Graduated high school
Larger for Red States, 85% < Confidence < 95%
T Pr Description
-1.52 0.1362 Gonorrhea cases per capita
-1.59 0.1185 Death rate from heart disease
-1.61 0.1135 High blood pressure cases per capita
-1.85 0.0705 Aggravated assault cases per capita
-1.94 0.0587 Forcible rape cases per capita
-1.95 0.0576 Prisoner deaths per capita
-1.98 0.0540 % Low birth weight
Larger for Red States, Confidence > 95%
T Pr Description
-2.14 0.0378 Murder or Manslaughter per capita
-2.23 0.0317 Prisoners per capita
-2.25 0.0288 Smokers per capita
-2.28 0.0274 Bankruptcy filings per capita
-2.33 0.0254 Property crimes per capita
-2.56 0.0149 Larceny per capita
-2.58 0.0133 Obesity per capita
-2.98 0.0050 Stroke deaths per capita
-3.22 0.0026 Infant deaths per capita
-3.26 0.0021 Burglary per capita
-3.32 0.0018 % Children below poverty line
-3.38 0.0015 % “Had a cigarette during past month”
-3.45 0.0012 Birth rate per capita
-3.73 0.0005 Divorce rate per capita
-3.83 0.0004 % Below poverty line
-4.13 0.0001 Death rate per capita
-4.22 0.0001 Suicide per capita
-4.81 <.0001 Tooth loss per capita
-5.17 <.0001 % of Homes that are mobile homes
-5.67 <.0001 % Traffic fatalities alcohol related
-6.00 <.0001 Motor vehicle deaths per capita
-6.45 <.0001 Firearm deaths per capita
-6.95 <.0001 % Grandparents responsible for children

The fallacy here is that the states are only Blue or Red because they have a winner-take-all electoral vote scheme in place. The truth is that with few exceptions it’s actually Purple. The alleged Blue/Red divide doesn’t really exist except as a talking point for pundits on Election Day.

Just like the Red state/Blue state meme, all you have shown is that poorer, more rural states have some worse stats than richer, more urbanized states. I don’t think that would surprise anyone. I am not sure how that would map to better/worse or more importantly, to cause and effect like you seem to imply.

Run your statistics again by percentage of black and Hispanic population and then come back framing the question you did this time. (e.g. “Are states with a higher minority population worse than mostly white ones?”)

Most of you stats for the red states are per capita - problem here is that they are typically more rural and less populated so while a rural state may have a higher per capita homicide rate, for example, the number of homicides is actually minuscule in comparison to a large urban area in actual numbers.

Plus, of course, there are several different patterns of voting to consider: presidential, certainly, but there’s also gubernatorial, House, Senate, and state legislature – which tend to be mixed. Virginia is a prime example: usually votes for the Republican every four years and has 3 Dems versus 8 Rs in the House, but just elected a Democrat to the Senate and elected a blue governor by 6% in 2005. The state legislature is currently about 57% Republican; as you can see, there is a fairly thorough mix here.

I’m not going to defend the OP as being politically meaningful, but I beleive that per capita is the most valid way to do those type of statistics. If you asked me where you were least likely to get murdered, I’d point you to the place with the lowest per capita murder rate rather than the place with the least absolute murders, because that is in fact where you’d be least likely to be murdered.

That’s true as far as voting patterns go, but my general sense is that red states and blue states have generally differing governing philosphies. I

It would be interesting to look at these metrics as compared to things like welfare, education, and health spending, crime laws, gun control laws, taxation schemes, corporate subsidies, environmental regulation, labor protections, and the like.

Could you say a little bit about how a state was determined to be blue or red, and perhaps provide the categorization by state for us?

I’m not sure that the poor and rural conditions alter the interpretation of the findings. Why do poor and rural states tend to vote more conservatively? Why doesn’t voting conservatively yield more favorable outcomes for these states?

Is the fact that these states are also net beneficiaries of the federal government (and blue states net contributors) consistent with the political philosophy typically associated with red states/conservative politicians and voters?

You folks ought to do what I do, and live in a blue-to-purple area of a red state.

You get the good restaurants, movies, shopping, and theater, plus quite sensible gun laws all at once.

Imagine if the situation were reversed–that the red states were wealthier, better educated, and healthier than the blue states. Instead of hearing that “wealthier, better educated, and healthier = better”, we’d be hearing about how these statistics prove that the right wing is a bunch of heartless rich bastards grinding the rest of us under its collective boot heel.

Would we really? How do you know that? I guess it’s easy to dismiss empirical evidence by suggesting that you would know what would happen in an alternate reality.

Of course, I don’t think that liberals and democrats want to be poorer, more poorly educated and less healthy simply to maintain an allegiance to a political orientation. I can’t see any other possibility than that you must see it that way.

All you’ve shown is that blue states are better off than red states. Not quite the same thing.

I have to guess NoVa then. At the risk of causing a riot here, you should also have said sensible smoking laws too… I’d argue about how red the state is going to stay, though.

As for the OP - well it has pretty much been said. It is hard to use state wide statistics to prove anything for a place the size of California, for example, where the vote is so split and the population so diverse.

The majority of red state citizens live in states that were slave states, and those states continue to suffer from the bad decisions made eight generations ago. The ruling elite in the South in the mid 19th century made the bad decision to try preserving their primitive, slavery-based agrarian economies rather than adapting to the industrial revolution. Hence they lost out on the chance to participate in fast-growing industries and failed to build critical infrastructure. They started to lag behind the North and they’ve never recovered.

Furthermore, entrenched racism caused the deep South to maintain segregation until the 60’s, a terrible policy decision on all levels.

In the West, many states suffered from poor economic policy throughout the 20th century. The Rocky Mountain states were heavily dependent on mining, lumber, and agriculture. Failure to conserve resources and build a sustainable economy hurt those industries in the long run. (Jared Diamond’s Collapse looks in depth at the case of Montana, which fell from being in the 5 richest states early in the 20th century to being the second poorest.)

Obviously this is a very general explanation and does not apply to all states. Nevertheless, it does suggest that the red states have brought their conditions on themselves.

I’m feeling like I’m a little thick on this issue. I agree that each state has a degree of diversity within the voting population (some greater than others, of course). But each state has only one governor, and only two senators and so on and so forth. And each state certainly has a history of conservative or liberal politics among its leaders (again, some more consistent than others) that can be used to consider what group the state belongs in.

I hope that nobody is regarding this as some kind of question about whether people in red states are better than people in blue states or some such. I take it as an examination, rather simply, of which political philosophy is associated with which outcomes.

As I said to Liberal in another thread on similar considerations, its perfectly reasonable to debate why the sun moves from east to west through the sky during the day. It’s not reasonable to debate whether it does or not.

I see analyses like this as just establishing which way the sun moves through the sky.

Let’s take average income for one moment, Hentor. What does a “blue state”, such as California, having a higher average income tell us? Not a vast amount.

The information would become more relevant if we saw the distribution of income within the state. It is perfectly plausible that the “red” areas of California are significantly wealthier than the “blue areas.” And even possible that the blue areas of the state are significantly less well off than the average areas in other states, but are brought higher by the super-wealthy red areas. Without judging the causations behind that, it would tend to point the opposite direction than the list of statistics in the OP, wouldn’t it?

Certainly the list of facts is a list of facts, like the sun moving from east to west. But it doesn’t really tell us anything, IMHO.

And on a totally different point, I cannot be the only person who finds the U.S. usage of red and blue here to be counter-intuitive. Having grown up with the red flag (or rose, thanks Kinnock you wuss) and true blue tories, I find it very difficult to remember which is which any more.

Only as much as one smoker having cancer might tell us. If, on the other hand, blue states as a whole have a higher average income at a level greater than expected by chance than red states, that tells us something very different. It doesn’t explain the cause, but it makes some theories more plausible than others.

And demonstrating it like this makes it more difficult to claim later that the converse is true. That is, we don’t have to start the argument over again at whether the sun moves from west to east or vice versa.

“Associated” we can determine easily. But cause and effect – whether the policies cause the social conditions or vice-versa – is a much more complex question.

Absolutely. Never said otherwise.

Your use of the word “outcomes” suggested a causal connection.