Saturday, January 18, 2014


If you are a Southerner, you know that divorce is routine, despite -- as this study notes -- the religious disapproval of the majority of the sectaries. The study understates the dogma. A number of rightwing Christian cults -- including the fastest-growing one, Calvary Chapel -- either forbid divorce or counsel women to stay with their husbands no matter how violent or drunken they are. Yet, and I have run into this reaction from such believers many times, if you observe that divorce is most common among Baptists and the like, they will strenuously deny it. What's the deal, they never heard of Tammy Wynette? Or looked around their own congregations? In statistical fact, the holy roller divorce rate is around twice the national average.
The study asks, is it because of domestic violence (no), early marriage (only partly) or low income (correlated but not regarded as a cause). I would have fingered early marriage, but that seems not to be the whole story. It's early marriage allied with little schooling (and consequent low income), combined with a habit of divorce -- even among non-sectaries in the same community. Well, I have some doubts about the "non-sectaries." A great many Southerners who do not go to church were indoctrinated young and maintain the same religious orientation as the church-goers. That's not something that sociological surveys can catch, but if you grew up among Baptists, as I did, you know it. I would like to know if the habit of divorce -- I regard it as a habit, at least in the peckerwoods -- shows up in the rates of second, third and fourth divorces. I suspect it would. I knew an awful lot of serial divorcers.

1 comment:

  1. According to the Census bureau, those don't seem quite right.. Alabama's divorce rate in 2009 was 4.4/1000. Texas 3.3. Both are mid-pack. (And, for some reason, California doesn't have a rate).

    There is something else to take into account, which I doubt that study did. To get divorced, you have to get married first. If New York and California, for instance, have very low rates of marriage, then they are going to have correspondingly low divorce rates; after all, in a place where no one marries, no one can get divorced.

    Alabama's marriage rate is 25% above the national average as of 2009, and the divorce rate is ... 25% above the national average.

    Texas' marriage rate is 5% above the national average, and the divorce rate is 1% below.

    So the wind is starting to go out of this study's sails. How common is marriage among Baptists, compared to, say atheists?

    But wait, there's more. How much correlation is there between divorce rate by county, and income per capita by county?

    And then there is the correlation between divorce rates and percentage of people who have completed high school.

    So that study could just as easily be say that counties with higher marriage rates, lower income and fewer high school graduates have a higher divorce rate.

    At the very least, it could mention there are many correlations besides religion. But that's no fun if you start out to criticize ignorant rubes.