Guest Blogger Tim Evans
I live and work in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, deep in the heart of the “Bible Belt.” Many studies have shown that the states that comprise the Bible Belt have higher-than average rates of divorce.
According to one study, there were about 4.8 divorced persons for every thousand in 1998. In the Bible Belt states, the rate was approximately 6 divorced persons per thousand. Is this a case of hypocrisy? I don’t think so. I think one could expect the divorce rate to be higher for the three reasons I state below.
First, I would note that the Bible Belt is primarily rural states, many of them in the American South. Typically, the average age of the first marriage in these states are younger than the average age in the rest of the country. Entering into a marriage without obtaining much life experience and without learning many coping skills is going to hurt a marriage, no matter where it takes place.
Second, these states are generally thought of as some of the poorer states. My state, Mississippi, has the lowest per capita income in the United States. Studies tell us that the most common cause for arguments in a marriage is money and sex. It would therefore seem logical that a married couple with less income would be more likely to get into more arguments. If the arguments become a chronic “symptom” of the marriage, then a divorce is even more likely.
Finally, these states are also “red states,” the ones that tend to be more conservative. I think there is something about the conservative mindset that makes it harder to accept the fact that you may need counseling. (As a conservative, this is at least true for me). I also believe that the religious views in these states make it more difficult to accept the advice of “secular” marriage counselors. I believe this is backed by a study that shows a higher percentage of Baptists have been divorced than any other Christian denomination. While the married couples may be more likely to seek counselors whose advice is more grounded in biblical teachings, such counselors, at least good counselors, are hard to find and are mainly centered in the major population areas.
So, you combine the lower age of marriage with the lower income and the reluctance to get counseling, and it is a wonder that the divorce rate isn’t higher in the Bible Belt. What are your theories for this phenomenon?
Tim Evans is the founder of The Law Office of Timothy J. Evans, PLLC. He practices law in Hattiesburg, Mississippi with focuses on divorce and family law, probate matters, and consumer law. Please visit his website, or visit his blog, www.hattiesburgdivorcelawyer.com.