Teen Birth Rates Higher in Religious States

A new study published by Reproductive Health found that US states with higher religiousity also have higher teen birth rates. The study hypothesizes that this correlation may be because “teens in more religious communities may be less likely to use contraception.”

According to US News, study author John Strayhorn, an adjunct professor at Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh, speculated that a potential explanation of this relationship is 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.”

John Santelli of Columbia University told Live Science, “The index of religiosity [in the study] is tapping into more fundamentalist religious belief…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.”

The study compares teen birth data from the Center for Disease Control and religiosity data from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey carried out by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Information on religiosity was obtained by analyzing the results from 8 questions used to determine how conservatively religious the respondent was. Such questions include agreeing or disagreeing with the following statements: “scripture should be taken literally” and “there is only one way to interpret the teachings of my religion.”


Reproductive Health Journal 9/16/09; US News 9/16/09; Live Science 9/16/09

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