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The Party of Family Values?

A graph printed in the NY times arranges the states according to their divorce rate, teenage birthrate, and (perhaps most telling of all) their subscriptions to online porn sites. So, which states would you think would lead in these “sin” statistics? Red States, the home of family values, moral rectitude, and social conservatives? Or Blue States, the home of moral turpitude and liberal attitudes toward abortion and gay marriage?

New York Times

Note that the states are colored by whether they voted for Obama or McCain in the last election, which means that there are more blue states than red states. But even so, the top 11 states for each statistic are all red — except for two states. Interestingly, South Carolina, whose governor was just caught cheating on his wife, has a fairly low divorce rate. Perhaps his marriage will survive his indiscretion?

I also find it interesting that the three states where same-sex marriages are legal and are currently being performed — Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa — have very low divorce rates.



  1. Though I am so very tempted to play along with this, I just can’t.

    Correlation does not indicate causation, in either direction.

    It’s not yet irony to me–prove to me that the wide-spread beliefs actually cause these behaviors, and then I’ll play along. Until then, it’s just oddly unexpected (even though I’ve heard this before many times).

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Oh come on, it’s hilariously ironic no matter which way the causality runs (or even if there isn’t any causality at all). Just sayin’!

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    I think Thought Dancer is right to be skeptical, given that there is a lot of variability within the data for divorce and teen birth. The porn study is actually on some solid statistical footing, though. I’ve seen the divorce:political affiliation relationships before but I haven’t seen a historical study done that would add some statistical power to the correlation, if there is one.

    Most observational studies of social phenomena aren’t really about causality. They are about looking for potential determinants of phenomena. None of these researchers claim that political affiliation causes these social phenomena. But it begs the question: what is it about political affiliation that might influence these statistics? Is political affiliation a proxy for certain cultural practices? Do the states that tend to vote a certain way have certain kinds of institutions (social, economic, structural?) that influence the level of divorce, teen pregnancy, or porn consumption?

    Any good (and by definition humble) social scientist would acknowledge that there is never one cause for any social phenomenon. These observational studies help determine the variety of mechanisms that might influence development of certain kinds of behaviors and social outcomes.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink
  4. Daniel wrote:

    Sorry. The Red Light State study is as bogus as crap. The problem is that on-line porn subscription is not a good metric to measure those who are actually using porn. Most porn on-line is free. As someone pointed out when this study was first published: it’s not measuring porn use, it’s measuring stupidity. Because only stupid people pay for porn anymore.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Daniel, that was you (not “someone”) who pointed out that “Only fools and Republicans pay for porn.”. See

    I’m sure glad this is a humor site, because you guys (continue to) crack me up!

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink
  6. Too bad that we’ll never know who the YELLOW states are because of the two-party monopoly.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  7. dk wrote:

    I dont understand the point of this – of course the birthrates are higher in red states! they are hicks and dont approve of abortion

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

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  1. The Melting Pot Project on Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Seems Like There Aren’t Many Marriages to “Save”…

    Quite the interesting chart put together by the New York Times (it’s too big to post here, but you’ll see it as soon as you click the link). Other than Nevada, which has to deal with breaking up plenty of……

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