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Red Families v. Blue Families, Naomi Cahn & June Carbone

2010/08/28

The authors’ stated intentions for this book was to find out “whether red families differ from blue ones… to see if we could find a geographic pattern in the statistics that corresponded to our understandings of red v. blue family strategies.” Their primary tactic for doing this is to look at overall state averages regarding a number of different issues, in an attempt to describe cultural patterns.

As I was reading the introduction, a statistic jumped out at me: “Thirty percent of American girls will become pregnant before they turn 20, and 80% of the pregnancies are unplanned.” This seemed extremely high to me, so I tried to find confirmation of this via the CDC and Department of Human and Health Services, to no avail. This statistic had no citation in the notes either (although other reports which are referenced do have footnotes), and this trend continued throughout the introduction. Similarly, in the first chapter, a chart lists the median age of marriage for men and women alongside the mean age of the woman at the first birth; by listing median and mean on the same chart, the two are being compared when they represent very different statistics (median is the middle of the range, mean is the average).

Overall, I think that this book is attempting to address more than it can actually encompass within the page limitations. The subtitle is “legal polarization and the creation of culture,” but it goes back and forth between addressing regional and political issues, focusing heavily on reproductive and gender role controversies. Although in topics it does manage to address, many interesting points and studies are cited, there are still some flaws as noted above.

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