New Study Says Vaccine Deniers Are Richer, Whiter, and More Educated

When it comes to science illiteracy in the form of Creationism, we know what kind of people are more likely to believe it: Those who attend church frequently, the elderly, and people without much formal education.

But when it comes to parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, the demographics are very different, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health:

The people most likely to refuse to have their children vaccinated tend to be white, well-educated and affluent, researchers report.

Exemption percentages were generally higher in regions with higher income, higher levels of education, and predominantly white populations. In private schools, 5.43 percent of children were exempt, compared with 2.88 percent in public schools.

While the researchers propose solutions that educate these parents “without attacking them or making them feel defensive,” you have to believe these parents have heard how effective vaccines are. They’re either choosing not to believe it or relying on anecdotes that suggest otherwise.

Are these the same people who watch Dr. Oz and thinks he’s credible? And is there something to the idea that when you’re affluent, you don’t think as much about the effects that your child’s sickness might have on others? (After all, if your kid is screaming in pain while getting his shots or there’s a rumor that vaccines cause autism, who cares about all those other kids who might be affected by your negligence?)

Either way, it’s a problem. And if the people with means and access refuse to get their kids vaccinated, what’s to stop people without those luxuries from saying, “If it’s not good enough for their kids, then I don’t need to worry about it, either”?

***Edit***: A reader rightly pointed out that the actual study only says higher formal education has a minimal correlation with vaccine deniers, compared to the other characteristics mentions:

The percentage of students with PBEs [personal belief exemptions] doubled from 2007 to 2013, from 1.54% to 3.06%. Across all models, higher median household income and higher percentage of White race in the population, but not educational attainment, significantly predicted higher percentages of students with PBEs in 2013. Higher income, White population, and private school type significantly predicted greater increases in exemptions from 2007 to 2013, whereas higher educational attainment was associated with smaller increases.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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