Warning: Being A Bigot Makes You Not So Good At Statistics

This is sadly typical of lots of bigots these days:

Is this a surprise to anybody? The following was posted on rhrealitycheck.org Thursday:

U.S. states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs on average tend to have higher rates of teenagers giving birth, according to a new study forthcoming in the journal Reproductive Health.

It’s not surprising to me, because most of those “religious” states are also so-called red states. Generalizations are always dangerous, but lack of education, low or no income, and increased religiosity tend to intertwine and build on each other.

Yes, because God knows, there is no chance there are other variables in play here. Like how about the differences in birth rates between races or the difference in the rates of teen marriage?

We know that nationwide (these stats are from the CDC 2006) the birth rates for unmarried women age 15-19 (per 1000) was:

All Races: 36.2
Non-Hispanic Whites: 21.6
Black: 63.5
Hispanics: 70.6

Using this information I can hypothesize that states with relatively low percentages of non-Hispanic whites will have higher teen pregnancy rates then states where there are high percentages of non-Hispanic white.

Let’s see how my hypothesis does. Here are the states with highest rates of unmarried teen pregnancies, along with their non-Hispanic white population as a percentage of total population: (State – Teen Birth Rate – % Pop. non-Hispanic White)

#1. Mississippi – 68.4 – 58.7%
#2. New Mexico – 64.1 – 41.7%
#3. Texas – 63.1 – 47.4%
#4. Arkansas – 62.3 – 75.6%
#5. Arizona – 62 – 58.4%
#6. Oklahoma – 59.6 – 71.4%
#7. Nevada – 55.8 – 57.1%
#8. Tennessee – 54.7 – 77.1%
#9. Kentucky – 54.6 – 87.8%
#10. Georgia – 54.2 – 58.1%

The average percentage of non-Hispanic whites in these ten states is 63.33%

So, let us look at the same numbers for 10 states with the lowest unmarried teen pregnancy rates:

#1. New Hampshire – 18.7 – 93.1%
#2. Vermont – 20.8 – 95.2%
#3. Massachusetts – 21.3 – 79.2%
#4. Connecticut – 23.5 – 73.8%
#5. New Jersey – 24.9 – 61.7%
#6. New York – 25.7 – 60%
#7. Maine – 25.8 – 95.3%
#8. North Dakota – 26.5 – 89.6%
#9. Rhode Island – 27.8 – 78.8%
#10. Minnesota – 27.9 – 85.4%

The average percentage of non-Hispanic whites in these ten states is 81.21%

*Please note, in order to make these comparisons I do not have to weight the percentages for population. If you don’t understand why that is so, please go find a statistician.*

Gee, my hypothesis seems to be doing alright, doesn’t it?

I also note the study did not make any distinction between married teens and unmarried teens in the numbers they used. This will skew the results of any analysis and make their results specious unless they can show there is no difference between the rate of married teens in religious states versus the numbers of married teens in less religious states. This matters because the birth rate for married women seems to be 8-10 times that of unmarried women. (Seriously, doesn’t anybody teach research design anymore?)

Well, I went and looked for the data and looky what I found! A CDC report on marriage from 2002. I wonder what I will find on the question of teen marriage rates?

Well, it turns out (page 44 of the report) the chances of you being married by the age of 20 if you are from the South is 31%. The chance if you are from the Northeast? 16% Got that? The (religious) South has nearly twice the rate of teen marriages when compared to the (not-so-religious) Northeast.

At the end of the day all this “study” proves is that the Northeast has more white people in general and fewer married teens in particular than the South.

Nice going Sherlock…you really wow’d us this time.

Honestly, I cannot believe a journal could publish something the “logic” of which was so easy to demolish. Seriously, it took me fifteen minutes on Google.

(Crossposted at IMW)

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9 Responses to Warning: Being A Bigot Makes You Not So Good At Statistics

  1. Gaius says:

    Lies, damned lies and political agendas, Rich.

  2. Mwalimu Daudi says:

    I guess the state-run media’s readership is not as interested in Trig Palin conspiracy theories as it used to be, so journalists have to come up with some red meat to throw to the Democrat Party base. And this story does fit the Narrative of a nation full of hypocritical ignorant sister-marrying Bible-thumpin’ right-wing racist homophobic red-neck Christianist theocrats lurking under every bed.

    And lest I forget – Rich Horton’s post is racist. Jimmy Carter says so. So there. We should consider ourselves properly chastised by one of our moral betters.

  3. oLD gUY says:

    Excellent take down. So complete, it just got embarrassing after a while. Sort of like a 100-4 football game.

  4. syn says:

    I wonder if Mz Erbe is aware that according to the 2008 CDC report the national average for STDs is 1 in 4 among females aged 12 to 19, ironically the smart-set in NYC is above this average?

    Feminism is a sexually-transmitted disease and Bonny Erbe is an uneducated boob.

  5. Rich Horton says:

    I’m not sure what set me off more, the smug and ironically holier-than-thou attitude of Erbe, or the fact the researchers were so blinkered didn’t even try to offer the CYA caveats you normally see in crappy “studies.”

    (OK, I lie. I’m sure its Erbe.)

  6. Sam says:

    I live in Utah, one of the red-religious states. Many young women, particularly LDS young women, get married in their teens. Several of my nieces were married at nineteen and were starting families right after. Younger than I would like, but it seems to be working out for them. And, in the polygamous communities, they get going in their middle teens – but that isn’t a very good example to follow.

    Another factor that I didn’t read in your blog post (I didn’t read the article) is the abortion rate vs. the birth rate. My guess is that a higher percentage of unmarried pregnant teenage girls in religious states give birth to their children, as opposed to having an abortion.

  7. Rich Horton says:

    Hi Sam,

    Yes, I had to think Utah was one of the outliers for that original “study” as they ranked only 33rd in the country in teenage birth rate.

    As for abortion, they claim to have accounted for it (as well as low-income) however, as is clear from the chart they provide, they simply used the raw CDC numbers for their data plot. That is fine, except their paper says they incorporated the abortion and economic information into the dataset. That seems highly unlikely. For example (data here):

    New York (low religion):
    Abortion Rate: 30
    % teen abortions: 18%
    teen abortion rate: 5.4

    Maine (low religion):
    Abortion Rate: 10
    % teen abortions: 21%
    teen arortion rate: 2.1

    Mississippi (high religion):
    Abortion rate: 5
    % teen abortion: 17%
    teen abortion rate: 0.85

    Arkansas (high religion):
    Abortion rate: 8
    % teen abortion: 17%
    teen abortion rate: 1.36

    There you have it. A place like New York is being praised in this piece and they have over 6 times the rate of teen abortions as allegedly stupid (i.e. religious) Mississippi.

    Hmmm…really sounds like they are pushing abortion as just another means of contraception, doesnt it.

  8. Foxfier says:

    That is odd….

    I do wish they’d have set up their data by “unwed mothers 18 and under”– I know some 19 year olds who had children, on their own, deliberately.

  9. As my late granddad would say, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”.

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