It may seem counterintuitive, but divorce rates are higher in religiously conservative “red” states than “blue” states, despite a Bible-based culture that discourages divorce.
In a new study titled “Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates,” which will be published later this month in the American Journal of Sociology, demographer and University of Austin professor Jennifer Glass set out to discoverwhy divorce rates would be higher in religious states like Arkansas and Alabama — which boast the second and third highest divorce rates, respectively — but lower in more liberal states like New Jersey and Massachusetts.
It was previously thought that socio-economic hardships in the South were largely to blame for high divorce rates, however Glass and her fellow researchers concluded that the conservative religious culture is in fact a major contributing factor thanks to “the social institutions they create” that “decrease marital stability.”
Specifically, putting pressure on young people to marry sooner, frowning upon cohabitation before marriage, teaching abstinence only sex education and making access to resources like emergency contraception more difficult all result in earlier child bearing ages and less-solid marriages from the get go, Glass writes in the paper.
“It’s surprising,” W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, told The Los Angeles Times. “In some contexts in America today, religion is a buffer against divorce. But in the conservative Protestant context, this paper is showing us that it’s not.”
But the LA Times also notes:
Wilcox added that the study also showed that more “secularism” – people not adhering to any religious tradition – was also linked to higher rates of divorce.
The nonprofit Council on Contemporary Families, where Glass is a senior scholar, provided a map to illustrate how divorce rates and populations of conservative Protestants overlap. “Young people of every religious belief — or none — are influenced by cultural climate,” it wrote in an announcement on the study.