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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Massachusetts family values.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney enjoy mocking "Massachusetts liberals" and casting my state as the scene of all sorts of anti-traditional behaviors. So it was with no small amount of joy that I read William V. D'Antonio's op-ed in the Globe this morning. Let's see: What does "Massachusetts liberalism" really mean in terms of family values?

The state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation is Massachusetts. At latest count it had a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1,000 population, while the rate for Texas was 4.1.

But don't take the US government's word for it. Take a look at the findings from the George Barna Research Group. George Barna, a born-again Christian whose company is in Ventura, Calif., found that Massachusetts does indeed have the lowest divorce rate among all 50 states. More disturbing was the finding that born-again Christians have among the highest divorce rates.

The Associated Press, using data supplied by the US Census Bureau, found that the highest divorce rates are to be found in the Bible Belt. The AP report stated that "the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average of 4.2 per thousand people." The 10 Southern states with some of the highest divorce rates were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. By comparison nine states in the Northeast were among those with the lowest divorce rates: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

How to explain these differences? The following factors provide a partial answer:

  • More couples in the South enter their first marriage at a younger age.

  • Average household incomes are lower in the South.

  • Southern states have a lower percentage of Roman Catholics, "a denomination that does not recognize divorce." Barna's study showed that 21 percent of Catholics had been divorced, compared with 29 percent of Baptists.

  • Education. Massachusetts has about the highest rate of education in the country, with 85 percent completing high school. For Texas the rate is 76 percent. One third of Massachusetts residents have completed college, compared with 23 percent of Texans, and the other Northeast states are right behind Massachusetts.

    The liberals from Massachusetts have long prided themselves on their emphasis on education, and it has paid off: People who stay in school longer get married at a later age, when they are more mature, are more likely to secure a better job, and job income increases with each level of formal education. As a result, Massachusetts also leads in per capita and family income while births by teenagers, as a percent of total births, was 7.4 for Massachusetts and 16.1 for Texas.

    The Northeast corridor, with Massachusetts as the hub, does have one of the highest levels of Catholics per state total. And it is also the case that these are among the states most strongly supportive of the Catholic Church's teaching on social justice issues such as minimum and living wages and universal healthcare.

    For all the Bible Belt talk about family values, it is the people from Kerry's home state, along with their neighbors in the Northeast corridor, who live these values. Indeed, it is the "blue" states, led led by Massachusetts and Connecticut, that have been willing to invest more money over time to foster the reality of what it means to leave no children behind. And they have been among the nation's leaders in promoting a living wage as their goal in public employment. The money they have invested in their future is known more popularly as taxes; these so-called liberal people see that money is their investment to help insure a compassionate, humane society. Family values are much more likely to be found in the states mistakenly called out-of-the-mainstream liberal. By their behavior you can know them as the true conservatives. They are showing how to conserve family life through the way they live their family values.

  • ("Walking the Walk on Family Values," William V. D'Antonio, Boston Globe 10.31.04)

    Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 31 October 2004 at 10:11 PM

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    November 1, 2004 03:08 PM | Permalink for this comment

    "The state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation is Massachusetts. At latest count it had a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1,000 population, while the rate for Texas was 4.1."

    Now those are family values. :) I've always wanted to visit Amherst, myself. As a teen I idolized the Transcendentalists. Some of the greatest Americans have come from your state.


    November 1, 2004 03:14 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Amherst is lovely but then, I'm partial to it because I was married there! (Northampton, across the river, is actually a lot more fun.) I hope you do get a chance to visit.

    Bruce Wilson:

    July 15, 2005 11:08 AM | Permalink for this comment

    Massachusetts' lead among all the US states in marital fidelity is worth citing until it is well impressed in the public mind that the very concept of "moral relativism" is an attack slogan cooked up by strategists on the religious right.

    But marriage is not the only index of social wellbeing in which Mass. ranks highly nationwide.

    Indeed, the highest rates of sociopathology in the US tend to be concentrated in the Bible Belt, but to focus on that fact obscures a more fundamental aspect :

    There is simply more poverty in the Bible Belt, and poverty correlates very strongly with greater rates of societal dysfunction - higher rates of murder and violent assualt, robbery, teenage pregnancy and out of wedlock births, and overall arrests.

    Why, I think I shall have to do a post on this !

    Patrick Casanova:

    July 16, 2005 02:43 AM | Permalink for this comment

    Here is an excerpt from my treatise, in which I mention BIll O'Reilly and Massachusetts' divorce rate.

    On another occasion (on Fox News) O'Reilly claimed a study showed that legalized gay marriage in Sweden caused a drop in heterosexual marriages. In fact, gay marriage per se has not been legalized there--only a form of civil unions has been--and other factors explain the declining rate of heterosexual marriages. First, heterosexual couples who are not married nonetheless have the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples, thus removing a major incentive to get married. Second, Sweden has no-fault divorces without legal consequences, providing no incentives for couples to work things out. Finally, the declining rate of heterosexual marriage was occurring rapidly long before gay unions were legalized. (For details see: Eskridge et al. Nordic Bliss? Scandinavian Registered Partnerships and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate. Issues in Legal Scholarship, Single-Sex Marriage (2004): Article 4.) Note that Robert Gagnon cited the same debunked study in his article, Why Gay Marriage is Wrong.

    Why didn't O'Reilly mention that Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, has the lowest divorce rate (lower than all states that have outlawed gay marriage)?

    And I wonder why O'Reilly didn't cite the Associated Press (12/30/99):

    Baptists have the highest divorce
    rate of any Christian denomination,
    and are more likely to get a divorce
    than atheists and agnostics,
    according to a national survey. [See]

    So atheists and agnostics usually have better, longer lasting marriages than Baptists, the alleged people of Jesus (who was seemingly quite harsh on divorce). Why didn't O'Reilly mention this? It's his job as a reporter to be aware of all the relevant (and easily accessible) facts, especially when dealing with controversial issues.

    -- End of excerpt

    Thought you'd enjoy that! :)

    Thanks for your entry

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