Home > Taiwan Writings > Statistical Correlations of GDP Per Capita, Welfare, and Voting by State

Statistical Correlations of GDP Per Capita, Welfare, and Voting by State

I hear a lot of people talk about freeloaders, in every election.  Conventional wisdom dictates that the states with the most people taking handouts and the states with the lowest GDP per capita would vote Democrat, in hopes of improving their lives through government handouts.  Sadly, I rarely see statistics on these assumptions – only empty rhetoric.

And you know how I feel about empty rhetoric regarding voting and education.

So I took a look at some numbers.  Same data pool – using census data, government-provided statistics on total welfare cases per state, and a simple look at an electoral map.  Here’s what I discovered.

The top nine states (plus D.C.), which have the highest GDP per capita, have between a 60% and 80% chance of voting Democrat.  The top nineteen states (plus D.C.), which have the highest GDP per capita, have between a 55% and 75% chance of voting Democrat.

The bottom ten states, which have the lowest GDP per capita, have between a 70% and 90% chance of voting Republican.  The bottom twenty states, which have the lowest GDP per capita, have between a 80% and 90% chance of voting Republican.

Rich places vote Blue.

Poor places vote Red.

That doesn’t quite add up, based in what we’d think – conventional wisdom tells us that the rich vote Republican.  If we eliminate D.C., which has an outrageously high GDP per capita, the top ten states still average $59,364 per capita – $12,000 more than the national average.  The top twenty states average $54,530 per capita – $7,000 higher than the national average.  This isn’t quite enough to call them “rich,” but it is enough to wonder why states that have citizens who make more money have such a huge chance of voting Democrat.

Conversely, the lowest-income states vote overwhelmingly Republican.  The lowest ten states average $35,910 per capita, $13,000 less than the national average, and they have up to a 90% chance of voting Republican.  Even the lowest twenty states, which average $11,000 less than the national average, consistently vote Republican.  If people vote based in economics, based in trends surrounding the historical job creation of Democrat/Republican Presidents, this makes no sense.  So we need to look at more data.

Let’s take a look at welfare recipience.  This is welfare only – I don’t include things like medicare, medicaid, food stamps, etc.

The top nine states (plus D.C.), which have the highest welfare recipience, have between a 50% and 70% chance of voting Democrat.  The top nineteen states (plus D.C.), which have the highest welfare recipience, have between a 45% and 65% chance of voting Democrat.

The bottom ten states, which have the lowest welfare recipience, have between a 50% and 80% chance of voting Republican.  The bottom twenty states, which have the lowest welfare recipience, have between a 40% and 70% chance of voting Republican.

This appears to back up what people say about handouts; there is a slightly higher chance that, if the state receives more welfare recipience, they will vote for Democrats who, traditionally, keep the tap flowing.  Conversely, the states with less people on welfare tend to vote Republican.  It makes sense.

But let’s take a look at how the states stand up, next to each other.  How many of those rich places that inexplicably vote Blue match up with the welfare payouts, and vice-versa?  The bright glaring example has to be Washington, D.C., where the GDP per capita is 250% higher than the next highest on the list, and the welfare recipience is 200% higher than the next highest on the list.

So let’s match them up.  We’ll use a simple system, based in the top twenty (1-20), bottom twenty (32-51), and middle eleven (21-31).  I’ve marked the states as Red, Blue, or Purple, based in how they voted in the last four Presidential Elections; Red is majority Republican votes, Blue is majority Democrat votes, and Purple is an even split between the four elections.

Now, I know that’s a lot of stuff to look through.  So let me crunch it down really tight, to the most significant data.

Of the places that have a high GDP per capita and have low welfare recipience – places we would view as paying more into the system in taxes compared to the overall benefit they’re receiving – 44% vote Democrat, 28% vote Republican, and 28% are an even split.  That makes sense, according to conventional wisdom: liberals want to redistribute wealth.

Of the places that have a low GDP per capita and a low welfare recipience – places we would view as poor, but not mooching off the system – 86% of them are Republican, 14% are split.  This makes sense, according to conventional wisdom, too: conservatives don’t ask the government for favors.

Then there’s the states with a high GDP per capita that also have a high welfare recipience – places we say, “Hey, they take a lot from the system, but they also put more into it, so let’s call it a wash,” – 86% are Democrat and 14% are Republican.

And, finally, we have the states we all whine about.  The places with the lowest GDP per capita (meaning they pay less money into the system by way of taxes) and high welfare recipience (meaning they take more from welfare, compared to what they pay in).  This is where the conventional wisdom falls down.  While 37% are states who vote Democrat, 63% vote Republican!  So everyone talking about how the win for Obama is because of people who want to not work and take handouts and mooch off the government…that’s just nonsense!  63% of the states that do that vote Republican!  Consistently!

Now, I’m going to take this data, and bring it even harder.  But not right now.  This took me around four hours to compile, and I’m afraid my brain is going to start leaking out of my ear.  If you’re like me, you want to know how all this relates to what I showed yesterday, about the levels of education and the correlation between that and how states vote.  Give me some time.  It’s coming.

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  1. Bill Schomaker
    November 19, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Interesting Analysis. What you might want to factor in is that in 2012 40.63% of GDP was Federal Spending. A LOT of those High GDP areas that pay a lot in taxes are areas where government jobs, contracts and lawyers congregate and pay each other with money collected from those lower GDP red states. Washington D.C. is the modern day Rome when looking at the % that are poor but yet look at average salaries for those that work.

  2. Bill Schomaker
    November 19, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    6 of the 7 highest per capita income counties in the country surround D.C.

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