Evangelicals have highest divorce rates: Study

The Vancouver Sun/February 5, 2014

By Douglas Todd

Evangelical Protestants have higher-than-average divorce rates, according to a report released today out of Baylor University.

“Despite their strong pro-family values, evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates — in fact, being more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion,” says the report, compiled by Baylor for the Council on Contemporary Families.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

"Religion and Union Formation and Dissolution

Religion is popularly thought of as a social institution that encourages marriage and family growth, and conservative religious traditions are especially supportive of “traditional” family forms and values. But there are some interesting and not always predictable variations among and within different religious groups.

… Overall, couples who have higher levels of religious service attendance, especially if the couple attends together, have lower rates of divorce. But there are big variations among religious groups. White Catholics and Mainline Protestants are less likely than the average American to be divorced, with 12.4 percent and 12.5 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively, compared to an overall average of 14.2 of Americans currently divorced.

But white Conservative Protestants and Black Protestants are more likely than the average American to be divorced, with 17.2 percent and 15.7 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively.

Indeed, Evangelical Protestants are more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion.

Thus the common conservative argument that strong religion leads to strong families does not hold up.

Some have argued that evangelical Protestantism (the typical example of “strong religion”) is correlated with low socio-economic status, and that this explains the increased risk of divorce.

However, new research by Jennifer Glass and Philip Levchak suggests that evangelical Protestants’ cultural encouragement of early marriage and discouragement of birth control and higher education attainment explain the higher divorce rate in counties with a larger proportion of evangelical Protestants."

Baylor’s portion of the report dealt with 50 years of religious change, from 1964 to 2014. Other findings by Baylor were:

- The proportion of Americans who do not identify with any religious tradition has grown dramatically — from 3 percent in the 1960s to 20 percent today — despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans professed a belief in God or a higher power.

- Protestants have declined in their share of the American adult population, from 70 percent in the 1950s to a little less than 50 percent today.

- The protracted decline in Protestant shares of the American population is largely due to the decline of Mainline Protestant denominations (e.g., Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians), whose numbers have halved over the same time period.

- Evangelicals rapidly increased their share of the population until the early 1990s, but that segment has experienced some decline since then.

- The percentage of Catholics has remained steady, but their ethnic makeup has changed dramatically due to steady Latino immigration.

- The proportion of people who affiliate with non-Judeo-Christian religions has doubled since the 1950s.

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