Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding Regional Variation in Divorce Rates

Jennifer Glass, University of Iowa
Philip Levchak, University of Iowa

This analysis seeks to explain why states with larger proportions of religious conservatives have higher divorce rates than states with lower proportions of religious conservatives. We examine whether the earlier transitions to adulthood (including ages at marriage and first birth) observed among religious conservatives contribute to this paradox, while attending to other plausible explanations. These include higher rates of marriage itself in religiously conservative states, and lower proportions of cohabiting adults whose relationship breakups are never counted. Higher rates of crime and social disorganization may also produce both higher divorce rates and greater affiliation with conservative churches. To investigate this regional variation in divorce, county-level demographic information from all 50 states is combined from a variety of public data sources. Statistical models assess whether the proportion of religious conservatives in a county affects the incidence of divorce and, if so, how this influence occurs.

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Presented in Session 177: The Role of Cultural Factors in Union Formation and Dissolution