October 12, 2020 - 7:00am

We all hope that every child grows up to become a successful adult. But, of course, not all of them do. And so we worry β€” for our children and grandchildren, but also for the younger generation in general.

But who are we most worried about β€” girls or boys? In a revealing piece of research, Brookings put that question to a sample of Americans. Overall, the respondents were more worried about boys than girls (as well they might be, judging by educational and other outcomes). However, they also found a big difference between how conservatives and liberals answer that question.

As you can see in the graph below, conservatives were much more worried about boys than girls. With liberals, however, it was the other way around β€” they were more worried about girls than boys, though by a narrower margin:

Credit: Brookings

But here comes the twist: when American liberals were asked about their worries for their own children (rather than children in general) they reversed their position β€” saying they were more worried about their sons than their daughters:

Credit: Brookings

Is this because ideology β€” what one is supposed to think β€” directed the first response (about girls and boys in general), with personal experience only kicking in when it came to their own children? Also, why are liberals more pessimistic about their kids than conservatives are?

This research raises a lot of questions, but the answers could get to the heart of America’s political and cultural divide.