What's the greatest threat to so-called "traditional" (i.e. hetero-exclusive) marriage? Conservative Protestantism, according to a new study profiled by the Los Angeles Times and awaiting publication in the American Journal of Sociology.
Researchers from the University of Texas and the University of Iowa set out to discover why couples in red states, with their culture of religious conservatism, divorce at a higher rate than couples in other parts of the country.
They looked at county-level divorce statistics alongside data from an earlier study about religious congregations and denominational affiliation. For purposes of this study, researchers classified as "conservative Protestants" members of those denominations that believe the Bible is the true and inerrant word of God.
And the results they found are fascinating. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Researchers discovered that higher divorce rates among conservative Protestants were tied to earlier marriages and childbearing - factors known to ramp up divorce. Starting families earlier tends to stop young adults from pursuing more education and depresses their wages, putting more strain on marriages, University of Texas at Austin professor Jennifer Glass said.
But the study went a step further: Glass and another researcher also discovered that people living in areas with lots of conservative Protestants were at higher risk of getting divorced, even if they weren't conservative Protestants themselves.
County by county, for every 1% increase in the share of conservative Protestants compared with mainline Protestants, the divorce rate increased 0.02%, the study found. Glass argued that community institutions in such areas might encourage early marriage, affecting divorce rates for everyone who lives there.
"Pharmacies might not give out emergency contraception. Schools might only teach abstinence education," Glass added. On top of that, "if you live in a marriage market where everybody marries young, you postpone marriage at your own risk. The best catches ... are going to go first." [emphasis mine]
Did you get that? Conservative Protestants, who are far and away the biggest opponents of marriage equality and the most likely to accuse same-sex couples of "destroying traditional marriage," are actually the greatest threat to marriage themselves!
And not only is conservative "the-Bible-is-literally-true" Protestantism harmful to the marriages of conservative Protestants themselves, but it's harmful to the marriages of people around them.
Game, set, match.
Click here for a map showing the overlap between divorce rates and the number of conservative Protestants.
h/t: Joe Jervis.