Abstinence, Antichrist and teen births

I’ve written before about the abstinence-only problem in sex education. The short answer is it doesn’t work to promote abstinence or prevent pregnancies among young people. The long answer goes all the way down to Hell and back.

The announcement that teen births hit a record low in 2010 offered a chance to revisit the curious pattern in which states that require abstinence-only education have higher rates of teen births than those that do not. The ThinkProgress post that got tens of thousands of “likes” just mentioned the top and bottom of the list. But using the list of state policies put together by Guttmacher, and the birth rates from CDC (I used the “final” data from 2009, instead of the new 2010 data, but it doesn’t seem to matter), here’s the complete breakdown:

Those that require that abstinence-only be “stressed” in any sex-ed classes average 9.9% of births to teenagers; those that require it be “covered” average 9.0%; and those with no requirement average 7.3%.

This pattern was verified by a much more rigorous analysis in the peer-reviewed journal PLosOne last year. The authors broke the laws down somewhat differently, into four levels (no provision, abstinence covered, abstinence promoted, abstinence stressed), and plotted them against state teen pregnancy rates, like this:

Their conclusion:

…increasing emphasis on abstinence education is positively correlated with teenage pregnancy and birth rates. This trend remains significant after accounting for socioeconomic status, teen educational attainment, ethnic composition of the teen population, and availability of Medicaid waivers for family planning services in each state. These data show clearly that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S.

In any event, the rates in the U.S. are much higher than in most European countries, as I wrote on last year’s report.

Googling Antichrist

So, abstinence education may be the cause of teen births — or just a very ineffective response to them. But what role does the Antichrist play in all this? According to Google search patterns, a big one (this statement has not yet been peer-reviewed). States’ percentages of all births to women under age 20 (left) are correlated at .87 with their searches for “the antichrist”:

Whenever I can correlate a real-world pattern of social importance with search behavior, I like to seize the chance. So I took the top 100-most correlated-with-teen-births Google searches and broke them into 9 categories, ranked in order of their interest to me. All of these were correlated with the teen birth percentage at the level of .84 or higher. Your interpretations of these are as good as mine. (Background and previous Google search posts are here.)

Christian stuff

  • antichrist
  • bibles
  • book of enoch
  • christ jesus
  • christian graphics
  • end of times
  • friday quotes
  • hagee
  • hagee ministries
  • john hagee
  • john hagee ministries
  • mark of the beast
  • obama antichrist
  • obama the antichrist
  • satanist
  • the anti christ
  • the antichrist
  • the book of enoch
  • the trinity
  • where in the bible does it say

Health

  • abortion pictures
  • blood pressure high
  • blood pressure symptoms
  • dna testing
  • fever blisters
  • high blood
  • high blood pressure
  • high blood pressure symptoms
  • high pulse rate
  • prescribed
  • std pictures
  • walking canes

Violence

  • 40 cal
  • 40 caliber
  • caught on tape
  • fighting videos
  • fights caught on tape
  • girl fights
  • glock 40
  • street fights

Relationships

  • love poems for him
  • poems about love
  • poems for him

Food

  • banana nut
  • banana nut bread
  • banana nut bread recipe
  • nut bread
  • vinegar diet

Dogs

  • american pit
  • chihuahua puppies
  • doberman pinscher
  • doberman puppies
  • english bulldogs
  • english bulldogs for sale
  • german rottweiler
  • kill a dog
  • miniature doberman
  • parvo
  • pit bull terrier
  • pit bulls
  • teacup chihuahua
  • teacup chihuahuas

Cars

  • 07 mustang
  • 2006 mustang gt
  • 2008 mustang
  • 2011 camaro
  • 2011 camaro ss
  • 2012 dodge challenger
  • f150 truck
  • gt mustang
  • mustang accessories
  • mustang body kits
  • mustang gt
  • trucks for sale by owner

Entertainment

  • bieber games
  • cheat codes for xbox
  • cheat codes for xbox 360
  • codes for xbox
  • codes for xbox 360
  • directv.com/myaccount
  • ed hardy purses
  • free music.com
  • funbrain.com all games
  • jeepers creepers 3
  • justin bieber games
  • music .com
  • music videos.com
  • my yahoo account
  • myspace.com login
  • pictures.com
  • spongebob videos
  • tattoos of
  • tattoos pictures
  • tattoos.com

Misc

  • anticipation loan
  • get a degree
  • money card
  • nuvell
  • search for people
  • water hose

9 Comments

Filed under In the news, Me @ work

9 responses to “Abstinence, Antichrist and teen births

  1. I suspect the results woudn’t be much different, but why use “teen births as % of total” rather than the birth rate among teens? Isn’t the former confounded by the shape of the population curve? States with more teens will have more teen births, other things being equal.

  2. The true answer is I didn’t notice I had copied that column until I already started making the graph. However, there are reasons to do it both ways. for example, the very low teen birth rate now is coincident with a falling overall birthrate. Teen births actually have a tendency to move up and down with the total birthrate. So you could say I am holding constant the overall birthrate in each state. That said, you are right that it doesn’t make a difference. The paper that I cited in the post uses birth rates, with the same result.

  3. Andy

    I certainly am not of the opinion that abstinence-based sex education works (and even if it did, I think it’s sort of ridiculous). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that these programs had the opposite effect, as that study showed. But I will say that I have a methodological disagreement with this sort of correlational study.

    A simple examination of the correlation between teen birth rates (or birth distributions) and type of sex education policy is informative, but really can’t get at all to the underlying causes of differences in teen births. Looking at the correlation, we see that a lot of states in the south have both high teen birth rates as well as abstinence-stressed policies. It seems likely, then, that part of the geographic pattern reflects socioeconomic, demographic, and social conditions in the southern states, rather than policy environment. These same social conditions may also increase the likelihood of adopting an abstinence-stressed sex education policy.

    Based on the cross-sectional correlation, it is still possible that abstinence-stressed programs DO work, and that the teen birth rate is lower in these states than it WOULD be otherwise, and states with no abstinence-based policy have lower rates because of other unobserved factors. Time-series data would help, but wouldn’t completely resolve this issue.

    • In principle I agree. Two things, though. First is the list of controls in the PLoSOne paper

      This trend remains significant after accounting for socioeconomic status, teen educational attainment, ethnic composition of the teen population, and availability of Medicaid waivers for family planning services in each state.

      Second is the micro evidence (which I didn’t cite) that the programs don’t work for the individuals who are in them.

  4. I agree with Andy on the issue of these types of studies, and hopefully the annointed few who control large scale longitudinal studies will take these issues seriously. While Phil is being a bit flippant about the antichrist, that is an indicator of underlying beliefs in Christian fundamentalism—the simplest and most exacting indicator of which is the classic question about beliefs in the bible (word of god, inspired by gods, crock of crap). Unfortunately, we don’t see these belief indicators being asked at T1 in most studies, identification measures are often poor (failing to differentiate types of Protestants in an adequate fashion), and measures of church attendance don’t get you to the antichrist…..they are measures of multi-generational social participation and not of religious beliefs which structure sexual behaviors (like failing to prepare for sex with contraception).

  5. Pingback: “Abstinence Isn’t Working” « From Eternity To Here

  6. Pingback: Teaching family inequality: Some posts by subject | Family Inequality

  7. Pingback: What do doctors, lawyers, police, and librarians Google? | Family Inequality

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