• Welcome to all New Sikh Philosophy Network Forums!
    Explore Sikh Sikhi Sikhism...
    Sign up Log in

General Teen Birth Rates Higher In Highly Religious States


1947-2014 (Archived)
Teen Birth Rates Higher in Highly Religious States

Jeanna Bryner
Senior Writer
LiveScience.com jeanna Bryner
senior Writer
livescience.com – Wed Sep 16, 7:08 pm ET

U.S. states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs on average tend to have higher rates of teenagers giving birth, a new study suggests.

The relationship could be due to the fact that communities with such religious beliefs (a literal interpretation of the Bible, for instance) may frown upon contraception, researchers say. If that same culture isn't successfully discouraging teen sex, the pregnancy and birth rates rise.

Mississippi topped the list for conservative religious beliefs and teen birth rates, according to the study results, which will be detailed in a forthcoming issue of the journal Reproductive Health. (See the full top 10 below.)

However, the results don't say anything about cause and effect, though study researcher Joseph Strayhorn of Drexel University College of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh offers a speculation of the most probable explanation: "We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself."

The study comes with other significant caveats, too:

The same link might not be found for other types of religious beliefs that are perhaps more liberal, researchers say. And while the study reveals information about states as a whole, it doesn't shed light on whether an individual teen who is more religious will also be more likely to have a child.

"You can't talk about individuals, because you don't know what's producing the [teen birth] rate," said Amy Adamczyk, a sociologist at the City University of New York, who was not involved in the current study. "Are there just a couple of really precocious religious teenagers who are running around and getting pregnant and having all of these babies, but that's not the norm?"

Strayhorn agrees and says the study aimed to look at communities (or states) as a whole.

"It is possible that an anti-contraception attitude could be caused by religious cultures and that could exert its effect mainly on the non-religious individuals in the culture," Strayhorn told LiveScience. But, he added, "We don't know."

Bible states *

Strayhorn compiled data from various data sets. The religiosity information came from a sample of nearly 36,000 participants who were part of the U.S. Religious Landscapes Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted in 2007, while the teen birth and abortion statistics came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For religiosity, the researchers averaged the percentage of respondents who agreed with conservative responses to eight statements, including: ''There is only one way to interpret the teachings of my religion," and ''Scripture should be taken literally, word for word."

They found a strong correlation between statewide conservative religiousness and statewide teen birth rate even when they accounted for income and abortion rates.

For instance, the results showed more abortions among teenagers in the less religious states, which would skew the findings since fewer teens in these states would have births. But even after accounting for the abortions, the study team still found a state's level of religiosity could predict their teen birth rate. The higher the religiosity, the higher was the teen birth rate on average.

John Santelli of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University calls the study "well-done," adding that the results are not surprising.
"The index of religiosity is tapping into more fundamentalist religious belief," Santelli said. "I'm sure there are parts of New England that have very low teen birth rates, which have pretty high religious participation, but they're probably less conservative, less fundamentalist type of congregations."

Other factors that may have been important to consider include ethnic backgrounds of state residents, according to Adamczyk, the City University of New York sociologist.

"We know that African American women on average tend to underreport their abortions, which means they could also underreport the likelihood that they got pregnant," Adamczyk said. "If you're dealing with states with a high number of African American wome, you might run into that problem."

Adamczyk's own, separate research has shown a nearly opposite correlation, at the individual level. "What we find is that more religious women are less likely to engage in riskier sex behaviors, and as a result they are less likely to have a premarital pregnancy," Adamczyk said during a telephone interview. But for those religious teens who do choose to have premarital sex, they might be more likely to ditch their religious views and have an abortion, she has found.

Cause and effect?

Adamczyk says the idea that anti-contraception principles could be behind the link is controversial, as studies on the topic have varied results. "The idea is that in the heat of the moment, a young woman who has said, 'I'm going to be a virgin on my wedding night,' is with her boyfriend and she says 'Let's just do it.' And since they didn't plan it, nobody has a condom. And so it increases their chances of a pregnancy," Adamczyk said.
Earlier marriage among religious individuals could also partly explain the finding.

"In the south, there is a higher rate of marriage of teenagers. And one possible explanation is just that in the southern states, which are also more religious, people just get married earlier and have planned pregnancies and those have perfectly good outcomes," Strayhorn said. He added that he doesn't think the earlier marriage idea explains the religion-birth link.

Top 10 states with highest teen birth rates:

  1. Mississippi
  2. New Mexico
  3. Texas
  4. Arkansas
  5. Arizona
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Nevada
  8. Tennessee
  9. Kentucky
  10. Georgia

Top 10 most conservatively religious states:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Alabama
  3. South Carolina
  4. Tennessee
  5. Louisiana
  6. Utah
  7. Arkansas
  8. North Carolina
  9. Kentucky
  10. Oklahoma
LiveScience.com chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store.

Forwarded by forum member Tewjant Singh ji by private email message. :)

*Admin note: For readers who may not be familiar with US terminology - Bible States is a reference to something called the "Bible Belt" or a group of states in the south, south central United States where fundamentalist, evangelical Christian congregations predominate.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Gyani ji

That is my explanation for it too. But I didn't want to go ahead and say it. Seems to be a Universal Rule because it makes sex a much-sought-after-forbidden-fruit. There is a growing body of research about girls in the early through late teens that is demonstrating that first sexual encounters occur in the late afternoon after school. And that the best prevention against early sex and early pregnancy is AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS where the girls gain confidence and social standing for learning, becoming experts in sports, writing, art, service activities, you name it. When they learn that it is possible to gain the respect of others through talent and learning, then running off into a dark corner with a teenage boy to get his approval is no longer interesting.

But parents have to stay the course and encourage their girls and back them up. And, as you say "the more repressive and control freaks the parents/society/admin/govt/schools etc etc..the more they rebel " The less support there is for girls to learn how proud and how powerful they can be in their own right, the more they are drawn to premature sexual activity.


Umm I would ask what our dear Narayanjot ji views as premature sexual activity?

I think that the time of puberty is the natural time in which sexual urges arrive so to my mind a teenager having sex is not premature but quite normal.

I would say that the problem these States have is one of sex education rather than rebelion. I wonder how many of these perants talk to their teens about sex, about contraception? VS the number who misinform their teens with talk about the evilness of pre matrital sex?

I have two boys one 16 and one thirteen, they both have had 'the talk' from me and of coursemy oldest can leagely have sex, whilst the youngest knows in no uncertian terms that he is not yet old enough, and should make do with his hand for a little while longer.

Sex should be treated as a normal thing, as that is what it surely is, and isn't it better that your children feel comfatable enought to come to you with their questons and to seek advise about it, then listen to all that Johny in the playground has to say about it?


1947-2014 (Archived)
Lee ji

Thanks for the opportunity to explain what I mean rather than going off in a rant -- which has happened.

By "premature sexual activity" I mean acting out on sexual urges. Having urges is normal. Acting out on sexual urges may be normal. But here I show my biases. Acting out on sexual urges before a person is emotionally ready to deal with all of the many varied consequences of sexual activity, both physical and emotional, is not in my opinion a positive thing.

I completely agree that sexual urges are normal. And your clear message about education is something I also agree with.


P/S Chastity for both men and women before marriage is highly under-rated in the developed world. Maybe we should give it a go -- just as an experiment.

Recommended Websites


Sikhi Vichar Forum (Malaysia)

Sikhi Gems