Teen birth rate low but Bible remains a concern

In 2012 I did a post about teen birth rates, abstinence, and Google searches for Antichrist stuff. The most important point was that abstinence education doesn’t work. In this post I use the percentage of teen (women) having a birth, and see what people are Googling in places with more teen births.

This is an inductive approach that generates ideas and surprises. Out of the billions of things people search for, which searches are most correlated with a demographic or social pattern across states? For example, the relationship between low marriage rates and searches about Kanye West is very strong (even controlling for a bunch of demographics), and state suicide rates are highly correlated with lots of searches about guns. If you think these are random flukes, you may be right — but then look at what searches correlate with racial/ethnic composition of states.

So for teen births, this is easy to get from the American Community Survey via IPUMS (I used the 2010-2014 combined file), which asks of each person if they had a baby in the previous year. Teen birth rate is the percentage of women ages 15-19 who did. Then you surf over to the Google Correlate tool and upload the teen birth rates file. The result is the 100 searches that are most highly correlated with the state file you uploaded. Someone with the keys to Google could get more, but this is what any member of the public can do.

We know that teen births are most common in the Southwest and South, and that broad pattern is really what’s most important: Republican-dominated states, the Bible belt, and places with a lot of poor young people.* Here’s the broad strokes:

db46_fig1

The Google searches is just for thinking about subtler cultural relationships and generating ideas.

Among the top 100 searches most correlated with teen births, American muscle cars stand out: Mustangs (13), Camaros (5), Hummers, Chargers, along with related things like transmissions. Next, however, is Bible stuff. There are 12 searches that correlate with the teen birth rate at .80 or higher on the list:

nephilim
original bible
book of enoch
bible talk
the book of enoch
i believe in god
yeshua
book of enoch pdf
bible names
the truth shall set you free
yhwh
truth shall set you free

Here’s a map showing the ACS teen births rates on the left and searches for “original bible” on the right, correlation .83:

teenbible-map

(A little disturbingly, “what is cinnamon” is also high on the list [correlation .81] — cinnamon is often promoted as a “natural” medicine to cause miscarriage.)

I exported the correlation file from Google and then averaged those 12 searches, producing a bible searches index that correlates with teen births at .87 (all the search correlations come out as z-scores, so the average has mean of 0 and s.d. of .93). Here are the results:**

teen-birth-bible-searchs

I’m no Bible expert, and this could all be a total coincidence, but I think some real research on it might be pretty interesting. Maybe the people who say the Bible is awesome for families and teen births are bad should look into it.***

Followup: Of course, if you only look at the highest correlations out of billions, you find high correlations. So I don’t expect a research award for discovering that. And that fact that these bible searches are from certain niches of Christianity is an interesting tidbit but just as food for thought. The more theory-driven version of this research might start with searches for just the word “bible”and test the hypothesis that it’s correlated with teen births.  That relationship is not as strong (correlation .74), but it’s still plenty to go on:

teen-birth-bible-searchs2

I take from this weaker finding that the stronger pattern above is not just a fluke or an artifact of the method.

  • Follow the Google tag to see the many posts using this stuff.
  • Follow the teen birth tag for more, including the argument that the teen birth rate is a myth, and the racial implications of promoting delayed births.

 


* This survey measure is correlated .89 with the 2008 list of state teen birth rates published by the National Center for Health Statistics. I would have a better sense of which is the right one to use if Google Correlate would say what time period is used for their analysis, but I can’t find that anywhere. When I used the NCHS list instead of my ACS list, it was more dominated by muscle cars and had less Bible stuff, as only “book of enoch” was in the top 100, correlated .87 with teen births.

** Here's the Stata command for making this figure (which I then prettied up a little):
gr twoway (scatter teenbirth biblesearch , mlabel(state) mlabposition(0) msymbol(i)) (lfit teenbirth biblesearch)

*** The 2010-2014 teen birth rates, from the IPUMS release of ACS data are these:

State State Teen birth rate (%)
Alabama AL 2.44
Alaska AK 2.727
Arizona AZ 2.385
Arkansas AR 2.886
California CA 1.901
Colorado CO 1.755
Connecticut CT 0.902
Delaware DE 1.644
District of Columbia DC 2.088
Florida FL 2
Georgia GA 2.578
Hawaii HI 1.991
Idaho ID 2.202
Illinois IL 2.009
Indiana IN 2.69
Iowa IA 1.477
Kansas KS 2.432
Kentucky KY 2.936
Louisiana LA 2.36
Maine ME 0.852
Maryland MD 1.783
Massachusetts MA 0.941
Michigan MI 1.881
Minnesota MN 1.428
Mississippi MS 3.545
Missouri MO 2.756
Montana MT 2.065
Nebraska NE 1.304
Nevada NV 2.449
New Hampshire NH 1.135
New Jersey NJ 1.005
New Mexico NM 3.5
New York NY 1.494
North Carolina NC 2.48
North Dakota ND 2.328
Ohio OH 1.901
Oklahoma OK 3.214
Oregon OR 1.568
Pennsylvania PA 1.928
Rhode Island RI 1.978
South Carolina SC 2.829
South Dakota SD 2.271
Tennessee TN 2.974
Texas TX 3.303
Utah UT 1.666
Vermont VT 1.073
Virginia VA 1.636
Washington WA 1.688
West Virginia WV 2.146
Wisconsin WI 1.305
Wyoming WY 1.6

4 Comments

Filed under In the news

4 responses to “Teen birth rate low but Bible remains a concern

  1. For every teenage mother, you can bet that there’s a teenage father who was involved to some degree. I live in one of those top ten states – it seems to be a number of factors involved: limited education (more educated individuals put off marriage / family, less educated individuals do not), limited job opportunities (most people here commute one to two hours to find work, for some women it’s just easier to be a housewife than to support herself), traditional roles reign supreme (men prefer to do business dealings with men, women usually work in house-cleaning, teaching, restaurants or live as housewives), low income and large family sizes (most people I see rely on food stamps, family sizes are just large enough to keep them at the edge of poverty – some have four to six children, some even more than that), and religion emphasizes roles (80% of the county is Southern Baptists, who hold to men are the heads of the family, women are to submit to their husband’s leadership.) There really isn’t anything for young women to look forward to outside of school other than having children and getting married and doesn’t seem to be much point in waiting until after high school graduation especially when being sexually active begins long before graduating and abstinence only education really doesn’t prepare them for the realities that the consequences of their actions will create.

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  2. curiouskiwicat

    It’s a very niche set of Bible verses you picked up. From the wiki on the Book of Enoch:

    “It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from Beta Israel. Most Christian denominations and traditions may accept the Books of Enoch as having some historical or theological interest, but they generally regard the Books of Enoch as non-canonical or non-inspired.[3] It is regarded as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, but not by any other Christian groups.”

    In 10-15 years attending a conservative evangelical church I never once heard of any “Book of Enoch”.

    Perhaps there’s a televangelist or fox news talking head who recently mentioned it and got people googling about it. Do you know what period was used to gather the search frequencies?

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  3. Are county-level searches available?

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