Teen birthrates, the relation to religion is real

A few weeks ago I reported on data which showed a close relationship between conservative religious views and high teen birthrates on the state level. I asked about controlling for race, since blacks have high teen birthrates, and are very religious. I did it myself, and it didn’t have that much of an effect. The relationship is real, even if you control for black population. Additionally, I limited also to teen births among those age 15-17. The correlation dropped, probably because religious conservatives marry young, but it still remains. Below is a map which shows the outcome for this on a state-level. Note that Utah is now an outlier; Mormons marry and have children young, but not at 15-17.


(click for full size)

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8 Responses to Teen birthrates, the relation to religion is real

  1. Bradlaugh says:

    Let’s face it, Mr. Hume, religion is adaptive.

    When the cognitive/striving elites were religious, or at any rate not less religious than the lower classes, this offered the possibility — though not of course the certainty — of downward mobility & consequent general raising of overall population quality á la Greg Clark. No such possibility now. Idiocracy is our future. On bad days, I think it’s our present.

    See you at the Singularity Summit. I hope the damn Singularity gets here before President Camacho does.

  2. “Well the only boy who could ever reach me, was the son of a preacher man…”

  3. Donna B. says:

    So many questions…

    One is about peer pressure. Frankly, if all your friends are having babies (and babies being generally cute and hormones raging) would that not be an influence? Is this why the cycle might be harder to break in some regions?

    I was 16 when my parents moved from Colorado back to SW Arkansas/NE Texas area where both had large extended families. One of the arguments I heard my mother use against the move was that she didn’t want me getting pregnant and married before I graduated from HS like so many of my southern cousins had. She feared peer pressure.

    And rightly so, I think. Some of my cousins only a few years older than I am have great-grandchildren the same age as my grandchildren.

    How much of this phenomenon is on a feedback loop of some kind?

  4. Michael in PA says:

    Did you control for socioeconomic status?

  5. Clark says:

    I suspect the relation is that religious people won’t tend to plan for sex. So they won’t own condoms or be on birth control. Then when the kids get carried away with the moment they are more likely to get pregnant and because they are religious more likely to keep the baby.

  6. Jane S says:

    After lurking on this site for a few months, I’m finally going to post a comment on this subject that is of great interest to me.

    My long-held suspicion that social and religious conservatives were becoming entirely unhinged was confirmed last year when NRO’s Corner collapsed in a gush-fest over Bristol Palin’s teenage pregnancy. I perceive two subtexts here. First, there’s the perception that pregnant teenagers, all giggly and happy and sentimental, should put to shame all those 30-something (and even 40-something) career women anxiously contemplating their first pregnancy. In today’s political looking-glass, the welfare queen of yesteryear has become the idol of anti-feminism. Second, and closely related, pro-lifers have become deeply invested in the belief that every birth is cause for unalloyed joy. It’s no longer enough to oppose abortion on principle: pro-lifers now must also believe that there could never be any good reason to not want a baby. Hence, all the warm and fuzzy sentiment over pregnant teenagers who lack money, good judgment, and comprehension of the demands of parenthood. I guess my belief that parenthood is a serious undertaking for responsible adults excludes me from the social conservative camp.

  7. John C says:

    I wonder what the chart would look like if you took out hispanics. I noticed that the southwest, and I include my state of Colorado, had elevated birth rates while having a relatively lower rate of religiousity. I think young hispanics get married at a higher rate than young blacks though.

  8. Chris says:

    I’m just eyeballing but it looks to me like the real driver here is poverty. Most poor people are religious (and I think even more strongly, poor *states* are religious *states*), and Bristol Palin aside, unplanned pregnancies (teen or not) occur far more often among the poor.

    AFAIK, Utahns are highly religious but not all that poor, which could explain its outlier status. (A scatterplot doesn’t have an a priori dependent and independent variable, so a downward outlier is also a rightward outlier; you can think of Utah as South Carolina with fewer teen births, or you can think of it as Nebraska with more religion.) And all the high-immigrant-population upward outliers are well explained by poverty, too.

    Alaska and Hawaii are more baffling — is the methodology perhaps not counting Native American/Native Hawaiian religions in the religiosity index? (Or maybe many people of those ethnicities have drifted away from their ancestors’ beliefs but not adopted those of whites.)

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