Influences Upon the Majority

texas babyIn my previous post Out-of-Wedlock Babies, Texas gubernatorial candidate and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, along with current governor Rick Perry, appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals defending the state’s ban on same-sex marriage arguing that “unions that do not result in pregnancy… do not ensure economic growth and the survival of the human race.”  Somehow both politicians connected out-of-wedlock babies to same-sex marriages into their argument.  “Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the state’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births.”  This in turn reduces “the costs that those births impose on society.”  I am going to attempt to show how detached Greg Abbott and Rick Perry are and have been from national heterosexual trends and worse, their own state’s alarming heterosexual trends, as well as the state’s rising educational and social inequalities.

Unplanned Births – National vs. Texas Numbers

I can’t help but ask myself why I am addressing economic and social consequences by heterosexual individuals, when the original debate is supposed to be about homosexual marriage.  I guess the simple vague answer is I am attempting to decipher Abbott’s and Perry’s Defense of Moral Prosperous Texas argument.  That’s the best I can do.  Here goes.

United States –
The average American home today looks nothing like it did fifty-years ago, even twenty-years ago.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) 2013-Table 16 p.70, in 1970 of every 1,000 U.S. births by women age 15-44 years old, 26.4% were unwedded, 44.3% in 1995, and 45.3% in 2012.  Of those births, 22.4% were unwed teens age 15-19 in 1970, 43.8% in 1995, and 26.7% in 2012.  The largest number of unwed women in an age group of those three time-periods were women age 20-24 years old in 1970 (38.4) and 1995 (68.7), but age 25-29 in 2012 at 67.2% — see table below.  These are the national numbers and age trends.
Table 1-Unwed Births US

Texas –
Finding the Texas data was more difficult.  Nonetheless, I did manage to find limited hard data for the twenty-two-year period 1990-2012 from the CDC and NVSS (Table 89).  Unfortunately, if you’re a die-hard political Texas Conservative, all the unwed childbearing data falls exactly during George W. Bush’s, Rick Perry’s, and Greg Abbott’s times in office.
Table 2-Unwed Births Texas

In 2000 in Texas, for every 1,000 births by women, 30.5% were unwed and 15.3% of those were teenaged mothers.  In 2009 in Texas, 42.4% were unwed and 13.3% of those were teen-mothers.  In 2011 in Texas, 35.8% were unwed mothers and according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington D.C., Texas ranks 47th out of 50 in teen-pregnancy rates and ranks 37th out of 50 in rate of decline in teen-pregnancy between 1988-2010.
Table 3-Unwed Births Texas vs US

Over a 22-year span, why is Texas not keeping up with well over half the nation in reducing unwed pregnancies and births, especially with teens?

Sex-Education

If a people wish to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, particularly with teenagers, if for no other reasons than to counter the dollar impact upon a state’s economic interests, rational thought would say educate thoroughly and broadly those kids and their parents.  But that’s rational thought, not Texas GOP policy mandates.

A Brief Political History of Texas –
Since 1994 the Texas Congress, or both the House of Representatives and Senate, has firmly been held by the conservative Republican party.  Governor Ann Richards lost her bid for re-election with her Democratic party against Republican candidate George W. Bush.  Once Governor Bush won his 1998 re-election in a landslide victory across the entire state’s races, the Republican tsunami had begun.  By 2002 after twice redrawing congressional districts that favored Republican candidates (map below), and despite federal judge’s ruling for the status quo, in unprecedented fashion Gov. Perry and his party controlled both chambers of the Texas Congress since Civil War Reconstruction.  Today Texas is considered one of the most puritan conservative Republican states in the nation’s history.

Comparison of U.S. House election results for Texas in 2002 and 2004 after the creation of new boundaries for congressional districts following mid-term redistricting in 2003. Blue denotes a Democratic hold, dark red denotes a Republican hold, and light red denotes a Republican pickup. (Wikipedia)

Comparison of U.S. House election results for Texas in 2002 and 2004 after the creation of new boundaries for congressional districts following mid-term redistricting in 2003. Blue denotes a Democratic hold, dark red denotes a Republican hold, and light red denotes a Republican pickup. (Wikipedia)

Texas Teens Today –
Conservative Texas politicians, especially those in rural and suburban areas, are quick to sound their bull-horns for the right to bear arms, to laugh in the face of taxes, and to defend infinite individual freedom until their dying breath and stand by it all with unflinching fervor.  The same fervor exists for sex-education, but for the last twenty-three Republican years with ghastly disheartening results.

Quite ironically Governor George W. Bush embraced President Bill “Unfaithful” Clinton’s multi-million dollar sex-abstinence-only campaign in the mid-90’s then further funded it and passed it when elected the 43rd U.S. President.  Governor Rick Perry, anxious to make his mark in history, rallied his very powerful pro-life allies to sweeten the funding pot and by 2009, 94% of all Texas public schools were teaching abstinence-only, in other words the only choice available, while completely eliminating any and all alternative education to sex – see spike in Texas unwed births, Table 2.  The repercussions of these political mandates have had a massive economic impact not only on federal tax funding dollars, but Texas taxpayers as well.  In this time period, Texas has been one of the largest recipients of federal sex-education funding, at $1.5 billion granted for abstinence-only programs.  According to the U.S. Sexuality Information and Education Council, in 2009 alone Texas received $10-million to teach and promote abstinence-only sex-education in public schools.  From 2008 to 2011 the Texas Department of State Health Services has rung-up $23.3 million in Rick Perry’s and Greg Abbott’s total-abstinence-only programs.  These figures become significant when in the next ten years Texas makes-up over one-tenth of the U.S. population and continues to be the 2nd highest GDP-state in the nation.  Fair warning America!

What have been the results of Texas’s single-choice just-say-no sex-education?  Texas now has the third highest rate of teenage births in the nation, and the second highest rate of repeat births to teenage girls (Table 3 above)!  What does this look like compared to the world’s highest teenage birth rates?  See Table 4.  It’s ugly.
Table 4-TX vs NationsIf there is one glaring point that the Texas Congress and Governors Bush, Perry, and favored candidate Greg Abbott have demonstrated over the last two decades are that “Out-of-Wedlock Babies” are and have been a heterosexual problem not a homosexual one.  And channeling federal and state resources into abstinence programs such as “Worth the Wait”, or “Speedy the Sperm” (an 18-foot classroom model with shark-like teeth), or “Woman Dry, Sperm Die”, clearly fails miserably while billions of federal tax dollars go squandered.  Period.

So why have Texas voters been so ignorantly stubborn for so long in putting in and keeping those failing policies and programs?

The Influences

With 268,581 square miles within its borders and three of the top ten largest metropolitan areas in the United States, Texas is one of the most diverse states in the Union as far as geography, people, culture, and economies.  However, this diversity doesn’t necessarily translate over to its politics.

Six Influences on Texas Voters

Family – Generally children grow up thinking, behaving, and living similar to their parents despite any disagreements or generation gaps.  Except perhaps for families below the poverty line, this general rule holds true in Texas.  The family is typically the most influential and most enduring influence upon a young adult’s civil views and life.  As the child ages their attitudes can diverge from those of their parents, but the core values and influence basically remain.  This is of course true throughout America, however, inside Texas it tends to be more so due to the state’s “Lone Star” history, of which I’ll address later.  Another influence is how the Texas family values higher education and if it’s a viable opportunity.  Below is a comparison of levels of education for Texans versus the national averages from CensusScope.org and the U.S. Census Bureau.  Cost, financial aid, and income are additional factors toward under-graduate degrees.
Table 5-Levels of TX Ed vs USGender – Due to the climate of the early 20th century in America, moving from patriarchal dominance toward more equality – Women’s Suffrage Movement – Texas was the first Southern state to ratify the nation’s 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.  However, amending the Texas Constitution to reflect the national winds of change proved to be a much harder task for Texas suffragists.  Only after it was clear the changes and amendments would succeed in Washington D.C. in 1920, Texas — being one of the original eleven Confederate states — and Texan anti-suffragists fought the amendment to the last day.

Religion – Naturally religious affiliation will be influenced by a child’s parents.  Typically those values carry over into young adulthood until the young adult becomes more exposed to Texas’ diversity, maybe the world’s as well, and those views may then be modified.  As of the 2010 TSHA Almanac, 60% of Texans are religiously affiliated or attending members.  The Chart and Maps below show specific breakdowns.
Dominant Religious Bodies in Texas

TX Dominant Faiths by County

TX Religious Adherents by County

With regard to sex-education and out-of-wedlock births, religion definitely influences most young adults.  As the chart and maps above indicate, Texas’ religious 34% are primarily Catholic and Southern Baptist, two faiths with traditionally rigid black-or-white guidelines on sex-education:  one choice, total abstinence until marriage.

Teen birth-rates per county 2010

Teen birth-rates per county 2010

Race and Ethnicity – As a general historical rule African-Americans and Latinos have been politically liberal.  Since before 1990 the racial and ethnic makeup of Texas has changed.  From the 2000 census the Latino population made up 63.5% of the state’s population growth and is expected to surpass the white non-Hispanic population by 2014.  The Charts below show specific changes and breakdowns from U.S. Census Bureau data tables.
TX Population by Race 1990-2013For the sixth and last influence, along with addressing the “Lone Star” tradition and origin, I will also draw the connections from race-ethnicity to family economics, and how those three dynamics construct the Texas political culture.

Region – As was clear in the above two Texas maps of religious dominance, a Texan’s regional location plays a big part in their employment-type and therefore income, two significant factors in their political tendencies.  The Map below illustrates the political areas by county across the state and further expounds Texas’ economic culture and is directly connected to political affiliations.

Note the political counties to other counties by educational attainment, and teen birth rate maps

Note the political counties to other counties by educational attainment, and teen birth rate maps

Political and Economic Culture – Since Texas became part of the U.S. (1845) it has had two political sub-cultures:  Traditionalists and Individualists.  Both still survive and thrive today in various forms and greatly influence(d) Texas politics.

In pre-Civil War Texas Traditionalists made-up just a few agricultural families with large land-grants and several hundred slaves, and hence came to dominate state politics.  During and after Reconstruction Jim Crow laws were passed to limit freed slaves from Texas public services.  This limiting carried over into literacy tests, grandfather clauses, poll-taxes, and all-white primaries, further hampering minority voting rights.  Texas Traditionalism is reflected today in economic and social conservatism.  In the Rio Grande Valley the Patronage System still prevails in civil business and management.  Religious groups influence government policies in the state’s Blue Laws, liquor laws, and gambling regulations.  Several powerful families in Texas still influence state politics such as the Hunts, Bush’s, Bass, Perry’s, Crows, Dewhurst’s, and of course maverick Clayton Williams.

The Individualists echo Texas’ long history as a colony of Spain then Mexico.  Having “inherited”(?) Spanish land-grants, Mexicans as well as Eastern-American settlers flocked to Texas for the cheap land and early economic stimulus policies by both the U.S. and Mexico.  This lead to revolution and upon achieving independence from Mexico – with covert American support – individuals began implementing more economic stimulus policies for the upstart government with more land-grants or with basement prices.  This sub-culture lingers in today’s Texas politics in four major limiting ways:

  1. Congress meets only biennially
  2. Legislators can only receive pay-increases if the state Constitution is amended
  3. The Governor has very limited budgetary and appointment/removal powers
  4. Judiciary process is complex and in a multi-tiered structure

Texas has extremely favorable laws and attitudes toward big-business and business owners in three major ways:

  1. No personal income tax
  2. No corporate income tax
  3. Employment At-Will doctrine

For much of Texas’ history, its Economy has been driven by three industries:  oil, livestock, and cotton and similar cash-crops.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise given the state’s acquired landmass.  For the better part of the last century Texas oil production and refinery was the bulk of the economy.  By the 1980’s oil and natural gas production made-up around one-third of the economy and job market.  Then came 1986, the crash of oil prices, followed by the state’s national-leading bank, savings, and loan crashes, causing mass job losses and bankruptcies statewide.

Livestock production has always dominated the revenues of Texas.  Texas livestock and its byproducts make up about two-thirds of the state’s economic revenue and ranks first in the nation in livestock production.  This industry’s influence is reflected in the state’s private land-holder percentage.  Of the state’s 268,581 square miles of land, 95% is privately owned.  With the state’s continued population growth, it’s a matter of time before controversial issues ignite, if they haven’t already, and another political tsunami rolls through.

Cotton and other cash-crops are major contributors to the Texas economy.  Since 1880 Texas has led the nation in cotton production with over 25% grown, produced, and exported from Texas.  Corn, hay, soybeans, pecans, citrus fruits, and peanuts are the state’s other high-revenue crops.  These industries still employ a large number of blue-collar workers with a growing mix of Latinos the last decades.

Part of the recent economic winds-of-change come in the Services and Technology sectors, Dell Computers for example.

Both above political sub-cultures and the state’s economic environment have delightful attractive benefits to individuals and families, but not for everyone.  They have some unfavorable civil and social side-effects and influences as well.

The Polarizing of Texas
TXquarter-unveiling2004

Gov. Rick Perry unveils the new 2004 Texas state quarter

As touched on earlier, Texas has begun to change.  With change there is inevitably friction and controversy, particularly from the state’s Traditionalists and Individualists and their long-standing way of Lone Star life.

In 2004, as the U.S. Mint was continuing its nationwide state-to-state release of new quarters representing each of the fifty states, Governor Perry remarked about the state’s nickname and meaning at the unveiling of the U.S. “Texas” quarter in Austin, TX:

Today it becomes official: Texas’ rich and vivid history will gain even greater currency as the Lone Star of Texas becomes a regular feature in the pockets and purses of Americans from sea to shining sea.  On one side will be the face of George Washington, and on the other side a renowned symbol of Texas Independence.  The Lone Star is one of the most identifiable symbols of Texas, and a historic representation of the independent spirit of our people.  Its origins can be traced back to the movement for independence, and its continued presence today reminds people that Texans are a different breed, set apart by their fierce individualism and their unrelenting desire for freedom.

2004 Texas state Quarter

2004 Texas state Quarter

That is the short, proud, Conservative public version of the story behind the symbol and nickname.  The broader more diverse representation is a bit different.

As a Texas certified teacher of all four core subjects, including my passion Social Studies/History, and as an eighth-generation Texan, I feel I too have a more balanced version of Texas Then and Now to share.  As noted, many Texans are proud, proud of their heritage, proud of the state’s size, proud of the state’s influence on national politics, national economic revenues, and the state’s implied attitude We Can Take It or Leave It – “It” being the United States as a whole.  Yes, as Governor Perry’s speech above indicates, Texas fervor for individualism, independence, and freedoms are alive and well today.  At least in his party’s mind and business circles it is.

The less exaggerated version of Texas history, particularly its independence from Mexico, i.e. the distinction between Texians and Tejanos, is a lesser-known side to the territory’s colonists and their struggle (or fight) to make a peaceful prosperous living.  Of the fourteen historic leaders (Giants of the Texas Republic) of early Texas, only two of them were actually born and raised in Texas – Bexar, or today San Antonio – and therefore are/were prominent Tejanos.  Eleven other Giants, who also represented their deep American ideologies, were all Texians, or immigrants from the United States enamored by the territory’s “cheap” opportunities.  Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Mirabeau Lamar, William Travis, Davy Crockett, James Bowie, Thomas Rusk, Anson Jones, Edward Burleson, David Burnet, all hailed from east of the Mississippi River.  However, the Tejanos of early Texas – namely Juan Seguin and José Navarro – relentlessly sought to ease tensions between their Mexican heritage and principles, and the “Texian Giants” from the east.  Of course, that couldn’t did not happen.  The meaning of “Lone Star State” is actually more an American-Andrew Jackson political movement westward than a true Texas-Tejano story.  It is the commonly enduring, though very porous, Anglo-American extrapolation of Texas history.
Table 6-Pop-Vreg-VturnoutDue to a 178-year “entrepreneur” spirit of Texas and six major influences upon its social, political, and economic culture which divides as much as it invigorates, Texas has one of the lowest voter turnout rates, particularly for state and local primaries and runoffs (see Table 5 above) for the last five decades.  Why the despondency?

I’ve given ample assessments of the factors that go into Texas’ diverse cultural and political climate.  Now I will give one last factor that plays a big part in Texas’ complex economic climate and therefore its voter climate:  education.

Percent 9th Graders Finish etc

A History of Educational Polarization in Texas

A particular answer to Texas’ consistently poor voter turnout rate overly argued hundreds of times by both political parties is illegal immigrants.  While this may be true, partially true, or hardly true, the data and facts paint a much bigger problem.  In a comprehensive study by TG Research and Analytical Services (2014), Texas ranks in the bottom tenth of U.S. states among 9th graders who graduate from high school or college on time – Table above.  Comparatively Texas has a high-rate of students exiting the higher-education pipeline toward post-secondary degrees beginning in 7th grade up to college freshmen (see Table Texas Student Pipeline, p. 73).  Texas is below the national pace to meet projected targets for Hispanic enrollment according to a June 2013 study by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), p. 19 – and the Texas Hispanic population has been the state’s fastest growing race for the last 20-30 years!  And the most telling of all studies and data?  College completion rates are noticeably lower in Texas than the U.S. average and have lagged behind national averages (U.S. Census Bureau – Current Population Survey) for at least the last decade.
Undergrad Completion Rate by Race, Texas vs U.S. Age 18-64

In my estimation these educational indicators explain in large part why the majority of Texas citizens (registered or not) have little motivation or skilled capacity to stamp their voice at voting booths.  This is also a national trend, particularly in the young adult ranks.  With that aside, the politics of modern Texas along with the economic urbanization of new industries and increased mechanization of agriculture, all converge demanding a college-educated (or higher) workforce.  Furthermore, the current higher-educated sector in Texas, i.e. the white-non-Hispanic Traditionalists and Individualists, hold and have held the key socio-economic and political positions in the state.  It is no leap of reason that “knowledge” and a quality education provides an advantage, and power.  The influences upon voters doesn’t end there.  One more factor deserves attention.

The cost of attaining a college-degree or higher is difficult at best for Texas families hovering around the poverty line, UNLESS financial aid (grants and loans) is accessible.  However, wading through all possible financial aid programs and conditions can be daunting and frightening for impoverished parents or non-Caucasian parents with or without a high school diploma.  What I found interesting in my research and preparation on this subject, is that Texas relies very heavily on federal aid for college admissions; significantly more so than its own state or institution’s aid.  That aid is also in the form of interest-bearing loans, not grants.  Federal grants for college-bound students have been steadily declining over the years.
Direct Student Aid by Source TX vs US

Direct Student Aid by Type 91-92, 11-12Assuming some of you have read this far, dissecting and deciphering the Texas and federal programs/conditions would need another two or three separate posts minimum, of which I or likely you have no time to read.  Semi-apologetically I will skip it.  But it is reasonable to conclude that for a state that prides itself on self-reliance, self-motivation, and self-direction, a Lone Star if you will, it sure leans heavily – at least for the last decade – on 49 other states to help.

* * * * * * * * * *

If Texas continues on its twenty-year path of rising educational and economic disparity, by 2040-2050 Texas will no longer be capable of supplying an adequately educated work force for employers and businesses that demand college-degreed-or-higher employees they need to remain competitive, innovative, and profitable.  The option for those future Texans?  Low-pay undesirable service jobs with little to no vertical movement.  Texas, this trend must be reversed!

Cutting or limiting the scope of broad education, including sex-education, as Rick Perry and Greg Abbott have done over their political terms, only handicaps Texas’ future generations.  Cutting or limiting a diverse education and experience among all types of Peoples – including the LGBT communities which by the way empowers students and young adults to better address and manage social, political, and economic factor — will actually handicap future young Texans.  The repercussions of bias, limited, inflexible, faith-based social and political polices and mandates in 1990-2010 were far more reaching than Texas voters could’ve possibly imagined.

What Next?

Voter ID TestIn a north Texas-based Star-Telegram January 2014 interview, Steve Murdock, a former Texas state demographer and director of the U.S. Census Bureau, offering causes for Texas’ increasing wealth inequality explained “if we don’t [correct] educational levels, Texas will be poorer and Texas will be less competitive”.  The same can be said about Texas’ socio-economic issues exacerbated by decades of GOB faith-based politics (Good Ole Boy).

A new generation of Texans, a more diverse population of Texans – though not so highly educated by national percentages – have a golden opportunity this November to reverse Texas’ decades of spiraling downward turns in education…ALL FORMS of education!  Getting to the voting booths – and out of people’s bedroom (heterosexuals) and personal life-choices – is the easiest first step, reversing our abysmal voter-turnout rate.

I am one eighth-generation Texan who wants that to happen and permanently.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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