The New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof reported Saturday on the results of the annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which found that people living in so-called blue states have lower rates of teen pregnancy, divorce and prostitution than their counterparts in conservative states.
In a survey of 32 states, the states with the highest percentage of teens who are sexually active were Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas.
As Kristof noted, “All but Delaware voted Republican in the last presidential election.”
“Meanwhile,” he wrote, “the five states with the lowest proportion of high school students who have had sex were New York, California, Maryland, Nebraska and Connecticut. All but Nebraska voted Democratic.”
When teens from evangelical backgrounds have sex, they are less likely to use birth control or protection against STDs. Of the 10 states with the highest teen birth rates, nine voted Republican in 2016. Of the 10 states with the lowest teen birth rates, nine voted Democratic.
“The conservative hostility to premarital sex also sometimes leads to early weddings, even to child marriages,” said Kristof. “I wrote in May about the hundreds of thousands of child marriages in America, and of the dozen states with the highest rates of child marriage, all voted Republican in 2016.”
“Child marriage is happening at an alarming rate across the U.S., but available marriage-license data show more parents, judges and clerks in red states than in blue states seem comfortable with this human-rights abuse,” said Fraidy Reiss, an anti-child marriage activist who founded the nonprofit Unchained at Last.
Red state marriages are more likely to end in divorce, the survey found. Furthermore, rates of marital infidelity and prostitution are higher in conservative states.
“One large international survey found that the largest group of customers on Ashley Madison, the dating website for married people, were evangelical Christians,” said Kristof. “And a major 2013 study found that men in the Houston and Kansas City metro areas were the most likely to call sex ads, while men in San Francisco and Baltimore were the least likely to.”
Kristof said it’s important not to confuse causality and correlation, however. Conservative values don’t lead to higher rates of adultery and divorce. Christians and conservatives are more likely to marry young, end their educations after high school and are disproportionately poor, according to statistical analysis.
He concluded on a conciliatory note.
“So let’s drop the wars over family values,” he said. “Liberals and conservatives alike don’t want kids pregnant at 16, and we almost all seek committed marriages that last. It’s worth noting that Bible-thumping blowhards like Roy Moore don’t help achieve those values, while investments in education and family planning do.”