Map. #6. The Southernization of America: Southern states have the highest teen birth rates as conservative leaders across the U.S. attack women’s and girls’ access to birth control and abortion.
Teen birth rates are highest in the Old South, plus a couple of Western states. Why? The folks from the Atlantic‘s CityLab pored over the data and concluded that higher teen birth rates have a lot to do with the high number of Evangelical Christians living in these states who describe themselves as “very religious.”
Social and religious conservatives often invoke religion in their crusades against teen sex and teen pregnancy. But Mellander’s analysis finds a substantial positive correlation between the teen birth rate and the share of state residents who say they are “very religious” (.65). Despite the moralizing, the teen birth rate is actually higher in more religious states. This may be because other options, such as abortion, are more restricted in these states.
As explained on the previous page, religion has played a major role in the Southernization of America. When you mix raging teenage hormones with lack of sex education and few (if any) options for birth control or an abortion, pregnancy and STDs are likely to result. Girls who grow up in poverty are also more likely to become teenage mothers. These teenage mothers, in turn, are more likely to raise children in poverty. Or, as drily explained by CityLab:
The teen birth rate turns on socio-economic class. It is lower in more affluent states, as it is negatively correlated with both income (-.53) and wages (-.35). The teen birth rate is also lower in more educated states (with a negative correlation to the share of adults that are college grads, -.54). Conversely, the teen birth rate is higher in more working-class states (with a negative correlation of -.36). The teen birth rate is also higher in states with greater poverty and economic disadvantage, as it is positively associated with the state poverty rate (with a correlation of .72).
Any one in their right mind would demand good support, sex education, birth control, and access to a good women’s health clinic for these young women. But thanks to the Southernization of America, we see our fellow human beings as fixed cost assets to be exploited, rather than as unique individuals that require investment and nurturing to reach their full potential.
Continues on next page: Map #7. The Southernization of America: Medicaid Expansion 2015, by State.