Why Do So Many Evangelical Teens Become Pregnant?

I recently read this fascinating article in The New Yorker about religion and teen pregnancy and sexuality trends in the US:

Regnerus argues that religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical. The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents—seventy-four per cent—say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage. (Only half of mainline Protestants, and a quarter of Jews, say that they believe in abstinence.)

A few interesting factoids that I took away from the piece: the states with the highest divorce and teen pregnancy rates in the country are all red states, and the ones with the lowest are mostly blue. It might be useful to map those states to per-capita income, to reflect how teen pregnancy pertains to income, not just political allegiance.

Even more interesting was that there’s a kind of tipping point for celibacy pacts in high school populations:

Bearman and Brückner have also identified a peculiar dilemma: in some schools, if too many teens pledge, the effort basically collapses. Pledgers apparently gather strength from the sense that they are an embattled minority; once their numbers exceed thirty per cent, and proclaimed chastity becomes the norm, that special identity is lost. With such a fragile formula, it’s hard to imagine how educators can ever get it right: once the self-proclaimed virgin clique hits the thirty-one-per-cent mark, suddenly it’s Sodom and Gomorrah.

There’s a useful marketing lesson in there somewhere, about tribes and passionate users (or non-users, as the case may be).


  1. Good point about passionate users. When I first moved to Vancouver from Montreal and was introduced to the local coffee culture, a friend took me to a cool, up-and-coming place called Starbucks. As they grew, they became villified, despite the fact that they retained their progressive policies and practices.

    What will be interesting to watch, to see if your theory bears out, is Apple computers. This group has been an elite minority that revels in a kind of smug superiority (I know, I’m married to one). However, as the tolerance level for Vista decreases, I’m seeing die-hard Windows users switch to Mac, and the executives who are switching are often taking their staff with them. When it hits the critical mass that makes the Mac lose its elite status, what will happen then? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  2. this is a good thing to let people know to let teens know that it is not such a good thing for teen to get pregnant. you got to give your self a chance to grow up especially if you are still a kid your self.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: