Religion and teen pregnancy

Teen girls are more likely to get pregnant if they live in one of the nation’s most religious states, according to a new study.

The study linked data on teen births from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention with religiosity rankings from a survey done by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The result: the states with the highest professed percentage of conservative religious residents had more girls getting pregnant in their teen years.

Mississippi ranked highest in both categories with the highest number of teen births and highest religiosity. New Hampshire had the lowest number of teen births and was one of the least religious states.

In case you’re wondering, Utah was one of the few states where this correlation didn’t hold true. The state was ranked as one of the top religious states (6th), but had a relatively low number of teen births (ranking 34th).

The study did take abortion rates into consideration, but researchers say the correlation between teen pregnancy and religion is still high.

Study leaders say the data shows that religious states are not providing enough information on contraceptives. Study researcher Joseph Strayhorn of Drexel University College of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh says, “We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself.”

I think the author’s conclusions on contraceptives is plausible, although somewhat obvious and narrow. What do you think — does a focus on contraception explain why liberal, less religious states have lower teen birth rates? What are religious states doing wrong? What is Utah doing right?

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