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An inflammatory infographic frequently shared online claims that women voting is directly responsible for increase of government spending which it argues overshadows the effects of ww2. I would like to know if this is merely a correlation or if there is some basis to this claim.

There is also a study corroborating this thesis: Did Women's Suffrage Change the Size and Scope of Government?

You can create an account there and read 100 studies per month for free.

Infographic / Meme image:

enter image description here

The infographic then goes on to make the case that women voting basically replaced the husband or the family unit with government spending (reduced fertility correlating to government spending correlating with women voting).

An inconsistency in this image seems to be the timing: women suffrage happened in 1920, female vote became the majority in 1980. So how did female voting increase government spending before 1980 without a majority?

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    The paper is available in full without an account here
    – User65535
    Jun 14 at 12:14
  • Also I think the question is very interesting but the claim is probably way too vague/broad to get a rational and unemotional answer here. "Did women cause X?". Maybe a question about the accuracy of the timing would be enough.
    – pipe
    Jun 14 at 12:22
  • @pipe all sorts of things could be wrong here, it could be the data, a wrong conclusion or it could also be the truth. Jun 14 at 12:50
  • Could we have some indication on how this paper backs up the contradictory claims in the memes? Also could we have links to these memes, just to indicate whether they are notable or not? Jun 14 at 13:45
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    Your last para assumes that men and women would always vote against each other. But if say 10% of men support some spending program (like give Medicare to women) and 100% of women support it, then it can pass even if the women are not absolute majority.
    – Fizz
    Jun 14 at 20:12

1 Answer 1

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So how did female voting increase government spending before 1980 without a majority?

Leaving aside the huge issues regarding the question background, let me address the question as asked.

It is absolutely not necessary that a subgroup of the electorate be a majority before they influence policy. Thinking this would seem to imply a picture in which ALL men are in favour of smaller government spending and ALL women are in favour of more government spending. This is clearly not the case, and can be demonstrated by a cursory glance at opinion polls on the subject.

To take a massively oversimplified answer imagine that there is a gender divide in how men and women think about government spending. I'm not saying that is actually the case, just citing an example. Let's imagine 45% of men are in favour of higher spending, and 75% of women. If 20% of women vote that is enough to push the "higher spending" vote to 50%.

In reality of course the question of "higher spending" is much more complicated. Nobody votes for "higher government spending". They vote for certain programs, and higher government spending is a result of that. There are other programs those same people would not support, and so money does not get spent on those, resulting in lower government spending.

Also the two charts contradict each other. The first says (about 1920) "instantly spending is higher than revenue". The commentary says (again about after 1920) "US debt rose and rose". But the second chart shows that debt declined between 1946 and 1982, meaning expenditure was not higher than revenue. At least one of things shown is wrong.

TLDR; The meme is self-contradictory. The question is a simple misunderstanding of math and the electoral system.

P.S. It's worth pointing out that while the infographic is very questionable, the referenced article is scholarly and reasonable, and goes into some depth on the societal reasons why more women vote for higher government program funding than men.

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    "the second chart shows that debt declined between 1946 and 1982". if we want to be precise, it shows a decline in the debt per capita, not the overall one, so you could have more expenditure than revenue and still have that graph, you just need a population growing faster than the debt.
    – Federico
    Jun 15 at 6:32
  • @Federico It still doesnt completely rule it out, but having one of the graphs show decreasing fertility at the same time as increasing spending does weaken the explanation a bit (even if that is still a possible explaination)
    – JMac
    Jun 15 at 11:59
  • @JMac but the declining fertility graph stops at 1930ish, and we are discussing the post-1940 part of the other graph. I would be very hesitant to extrapolate anything.
    – Federico
    Jun 15 at 12:02
  • @Federico I just find it funny (and possibly short-sighted) that the information they decide to graph heavily implies that the population shouldnt be growing. So even if they cut the fertility graph at a time to exaggerate a decline, it actually weakens their position in the attempt to try to add declining fertility into the mix.
    – JMac
    Jun 15 at 12:12
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    @JMac Let's be honest, the question has a serious undercurrent of misogyny. It "blames" Obama on women being given the vote (instead of blaming all the previous presidents on the anomaly that only men could vote). It blames high government spending on women "who receive most of the benefits of welfare while men pay most of the taxes that pay for it". (Neglecting the fact that women pay less taxes because they are paid less, and in many cases receive welfare because a man has made them pregnant and then run off without paying them child support.) Jun 15 at 13:57

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