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Counterintuitive? Interesting results in nationwide divorce study

The blue/red political divide that marks the United States is often referenced in the media and well understood by many millions of Americans.

In quick summary, so-called “blue” states are deemed comparatively liberal, generally supportive of Democratic positions and predominantly situated in the New England area, pockets of the Midwest and on both coasts. “Red” states, conversely, are those commonly perceived as having populations that are generally more conservative, right-leaning and with stronger religious affiliations. They are situated in the hinterland and throughout most of the South. Florida, which is often deemed as red, actually gave its electoral votes to President Obama in the last election.

A new study on divorce sheds interesting light on what a recent media article calls the “counterintuitive” finding that divorce rates, while thought by many to typically be higher in blue states, are actually among the highest in the country in red states.

And that is especially true in the south, where couples in states with conservative religious traditions -- especially Protestantism -- cut the marital cord far more often than in liberal states.

Why is that?

A professor at the University of Texas at Austin and fellow researchers say that the higher divorce rate owes largely to religious practices and beliefs that collectively “decrease marital stability.”

Those include a general disfavoring of pre-marital cohabitation, a disinclination to teach sex education and make contraception readily available and a social pressure placed on young people to marry early.

Those factors undermine marital stability from the outset in many instances, notes Jennifer Glass, the lead study author.

Put another way, many people in conservative Protestant areas -- like Alabama and Arkansas -- marry when they are still relatively immature and don’t have much of a financial cushion to begin married life, and with babies appearing on the scene very early. That interplay of factors can work against marital strength despite, as noted by the Huffington Post, “a Bible-based culture that discourages divorce.”

The study will appear later this month in the American Journal of Sociology.

Source: Huffington Post, "'Red' states have hgher divorce rates than 'blue' states, and here's why," Jan. 21, 2014

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