Divorce in the Bible Belt?
A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau concludes that divorce rates are up in the Bible Belt. The unspoken subtext is that if Christians can’t make marriage work, then no-one can. But there are a number of things to keep in mind when reading such stories, not the least of which is that marriage is generally in improving shape. (The overall divorce rate in America has been declining slowly since 1985.)
We should unpack the statistics a little lest we come to the wrong conclusions. It is true that the South has had higher divorce rates than the North for some time, but this is not because it’s the Bible Belt, but instead it has more married couples to begin with. And unfortunately, more marriages means more opportunity for divorce. Secondly, there are more young marriages (18-20 years of age), and more couples living in poverty in the South, both factors that are associated with increased risk of divorce.
With this in mind, it would perhaps be more appropriate to describe the South as the “Mobile-Home Belt” than the Bible Belt — the former is a sure-fire indicator of divorce, the second not so much. In fact, it has been shown that couples who take their faith seriously have a 35 percent lower risk of divorce than those who do not practice a religious faith.