Why do Religious Conservatives have Higher Divorce Rate? Early Marriage and Poverty

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
(graphic: MyDivorceDocuments.com)

Divorce in the United States is more likely to occur in conservative states than liberal ones, due to residents of the former preferring to get married early and problems stemming from poverty, according to a new study.


Demographers Jennifer Glass at the University of Texas at Austin and Philip Levchak at the University of Iowa reviewed divorce data from every county in the country that was collected in 2000.


They found religiously conservative states like Alabama and Arkansas have considerably higher rates of failed marriages than New Jersey and Massachusetts. The two southern states had the second and third highest divorce rates in the U.S. at 13 per 1,000 people (Nevada, with its divorce industry, is number one), compared to the two northeast states’ low rates of six and seven per 1,000 people per year.


The higher rates were attributed to these states’ large concentrations of evangelical Christians, who espouse the importance of marriage over living out of wedlock. This belief frequently leads to people getting married at a young age, which can lead to divorce.


“Restricting sexual activity to marriage and encouraging large families seem to make young people start families earlier in life, even though that may not be best for the long-term survival of those marriages,” Glass said in a news release.


Other researchers have noted that higher rates of poverty, which exist in states throughout the South, can produce strain on marital relationships, leading to their dissolution.


Glass and Levchak found that “people who live in conservative religious counties have a higher risk of divorce even when they are not affiliated with a conservative religious group.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates (Council on Contemporary Families)

Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding Regional Variation in Divorce Rates (by Jennifer Glass and Philip Levchak, University of Iowa) (pdf)

Arkansas Leads Nation in Multiple Divorces (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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