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High divorce rates and teen pregnancy are worse in conservative states than liberal states

But moral panic won't help lower divorce rates and teen pregnancy in conservative states; education will.

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Ask most people about the differences between families who live in “red” (conservative) states and “blue” (liberal) states, and you’ll hear a common refrain: Massachusetts and California are hotbeds of divorce and teen pregnancy, while Nebraska and Texas are havens of virtue and stability.

The reality is quite different. And the evidence should force all of us – conservative and liberal alike – to think carefully about the policies we set to help American families thrive in the 21st century.

According to a new federal study, women with a college education are much more likely to be married than are women who have never graduated from high school. And men and women who married after the age of 25 have lower divorce rates than couples who were married at younger ages.

We could have predicted these results. The US family system, which once differed little by class or region, has become a marker of race, culture, and religion. A new “blue” family paradigm has handsomely rewarded those who invest in women’s as well as men’s education and defer childbearing until the couple is better established. These families, concentrated in urban areas and the coasts, have seen their divorce rates fall back to the level of the 1960s, incomes rise, and nonmarital births remain rare. With later marriage has also come greater stability and less divorce.

Societal support for high school sweethearts who want to tie the knot at graduation or for shotgun weddings – where the bride is accidentally pregnant – no longer exists.

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