Abstinence pledges

by on October 31, 2008 at 7:30 am in Education | Permalink

It seems to boil down to Larry Iannaccone’s model of religion:

Bearman and Brückner have also identified a peculiar dilemma: in some
schools, if too many teens pledge, the effort basically collapses.
Pledgers apparently gather strength from the sense that they are an
embattled minority; once their numbers exceed thirty per cent, and
proclaimed chastity becomes the norm, that special identity is lost.
With such a fragile formula, it’s hard to imagine how educators can
ever get it right: once the self-proclaimed virgin clique hits the
thirty-one-per-cent mark, suddenly it’s Sodom and Gomorrah.

Here is much more, on the general question of why the teenage children of evangelicals get pregnant so often.  The first question is whether they do, adjusting for all the proper demographics.  Second, I wonder if there isn’t also a combined lifecycle/genetic effect.  Maybe if you’re rowdy when you’re young, you’re religious when you’re old, but the kids that pop out are on average rowdy too.

K T Cat October 31, 2008 at 7:55 am

I love all of these analyses of chastity that have no historical perspective at all and appeal to some notion of biological determinism.

Here are some facts. In the past (going back decades), contraceptives were harder to obtain. In the past, abortions were harder to obtain. In the past, the illegitimacy rates were much lower.

And these facts lead you to conclude … kids are going to do it anyway?

Andrew October 31, 2008 at 8:15 am

Pay them. Then, kids with longer time preferences, the ones we really ‘care’ about ruining their lives and giving their children the best foundation, will self-select. You either get college or child-care. Parents should make this offer. And if you can’t make this offer, don’t have kids.

I think you’d also have to adjust for the level that religion is just “what you do.” I wasn’t religious as a kid, but was much more moral and ethical than the average evangelical. I don’t attribute that to their religion. Where I was from, there was a stigma if you didn’t go to church. So, less ethical, more corruptible, and people seeking acceptance are in some sense more likely to feign religiosity (as are those seeking power). But what liberal sociologist is going to delve into that one? After all, that ultimately takes you down the road that leads to humanist government as the church of atheists.

Besides, what’s so wrong with having kids?

That article is just irritating. People who write columns like that just don’t get it. It’s like statistical titillation. Anyone really interested in illumination doesn’t think in terms of red/blue states. It’s all about population density. Really, who gives a crap anymore about whether liberals or conservatives are more fallacious or which has more cunning linguists?

“pop out”?

Jorge Landivar October 31, 2008 at 8:48 am

Pay them. Then, kids with longer time preferences, the ones we really ‘care’ about ruining their lives and giving their children the best foundation, will self-select.

There are many rational reasons that people have children while young:

1) many evangelicals and conservative Catholics see children as a net good not as a “ruining their lives.” They see the children as the purpose for their life, and the career is just to help take care of the children. The career isn’t the purpose for their life.
2) As the couple gets older their ability to have kids decreases and the risk of genetic problems/complications increases.
3) When you are young you have more time and energy, but less money/experience.

4) Many of them don’t want to go into a career that is heavily front-loaded with lots of education. (Doctor, Professor, etc) But rather have a trade because the money is pretty good as you can start building the money earlier. (Plumber, Electrician, Mechanic, etc) This could be seen as a time preference of just that they like the other career better.

Everyone here seems to make the assumption that long time preference = good and short time preference = bad. While this is true in a number of situations, its not inherently true, and its not good for economists to try to judge behavior in abstract terms. Instead of trying to judge and modify people’s behavior, we should instead try to understand why they make their life choices better.

Economics is not and should not be religion!, where we impose our ideas of better behavior on others. Instead it should be like a science where we build models for human choices to try to explain human behavior.

Anonymous October 31, 2008 at 8:54 am

Tyler, are you serious?

This sort of drivel is so appallingly unscientific, it continues to amaze me that intelligent people give it creedence.

Amazing how the states with the lowest rates of teen pregnancy are the most Anglo states in the country, and the states with the highest rates are the states with the highest concentrations of low income and minorities. The cultural values of evangelicals of different ethnicities vary wildly. Neither side of the sex-ed debate seems to be able to clearly show a significant advantage to the other. Thinking that some 1-hour pep talk is going to significantly change behavior is like Obama sending out Suze Orman DVDs as a centerpiece of his economic plan. Incentives matter. When you have a high concentration of people on the government dole, you eliminate the financial costs and social stigma of sub-optimal behavior.

Anonymous October 31, 2008 at 9:40 am

Thinking that some 1-hour pep talk is going to significantly change behavior is like Obama sending out Suze Orman DVDs as a centerpiece of his economic plan.

This is a candidate for the best sentence I read today.

K T Cat October 31, 2008 at 10:01 am

Streetwalker,

That’s a really good parroting of the current excusing of the situation. Too bad it’s not true. Maybe you ought to spend some time in retirement homes talking to the people that actually lived back then and less time reading the current sociology literature.

B.H. October 31, 2008 at 10:19 am

You are going to have to try harder than that.

Gathering reliable evidence on this issue is difficult, to say the least.

But is the difference in behavior the likelihood of teenage sex, the likelihood of sex resulting in pregnancy, or the likelihood of an abortion which is kept hush-hush. My guess is that the third factor is what is different, but that is hard to prove.

Anderson October 31, 2008 at 10:28 am

Given how many “vaginal virgins” are practicing anal sex to appease their rapacious boyfriends, it’s probably Sodom and Gomorrah already.

Mr. Beefy October 31, 2008 at 11:17 am

My daddy always said early 2 ripe, early 2 rot. :).

Jake October 31, 2008 at 11:40 am

The first question is whether they do, adjusting for all the proper demographics. Second, I wonder if there isn’t also a combined lifecycle/genetic effect.

There are a few other questions, too, including whether secular girls are more likely to get abortions and thus not be counted in the birth total. The other, more notable issue is whether evangelicals receive substantially different sex education than non-evangelical teens, and whether their resulting practices are different as well. The education issue might be substantial: we wrote about much of the research behind it in a post regarding the Community-Based Abstinence Education Program, which you can read at the link.

Christina October 31, 2008 at 1:38 pm

This is just anecdotal, so take it with a grain of salt, but I have noticed that the strongest correlation between the age of “sexual debut” for girls and the relationship they have with their fathers. This applies across socio-economic, geographic, and religious lines. Girls who feel ignored or otherwise marginalized by their fathers tend to seek out male affection elsewhere and are more likely to give in to sexual pressure. Girls who have good relationships with their dads, in which they feel valued and worthy, are much less likely to buy some stupid boy’s come-on lines. The positive value of an engaged and responsible father cannot be overstated.

Marcus October 31, 2008 at 4:34 pm

If there really is substance to this I wonder if it applies to political beliefs as well?

Anonymous October 31, 2008 at 5:42 pm

The positive value of an engaged and responsible father cannot be overstated.

Agreed.

One side effect is they scare away the most irresponsible boys….

K T Cat October 31, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Sorry, no time to reply. I was busy writing to my great-grand-baby daddy (he got four different girls pregnant, you know, but that was common back then) and listening to Cole Porter sing, “I wanna &8ck you in the @$$”

K T Cat October 31, 2008 at 7:39 pm

OK, let’s try some math. According to the US Department of Labor (the title suggestes that they get involved in pregnancy issues), the illegitimacy rate for whites in 1940 was 2%. In 1963 it was 3.07%. For blacks it was around 16% in 1940.

http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/moynchapter2.htm

Now we’re all enlightened, progressive, secular people here, so we know for a biological fact that teenagers will have sex. Current data for the US says that the average age for the loss of virginity is about 17.

http://current.com/items/88792729_average_age_of_virginity_loss_by_country

So, since we know that 50% or so of all 17 year olds in 1940 were having sex and we know that the illegtimacy rates were in the low single digits, we can therefore conclude that most marriages occurred around age 14, assuming a normal distribution for the age of sexual activity and taking a guess at the standard deviation.

Furthermore, I … whoa! Never mind! You should see this YouTube video I’m watching. The Andrews Sisters are strapped to a king sized bed and Bing Crosby, dressed in leather and looking like a bat is brandishing a huge kielbasa in one hand and a hand-cranked egg beater in another …

Anonymous November 1, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Green grow the rashes, O;
Green grow the rashes, O;
The sweetest hours that e’er I spend,
Are spent among the lasses, O.

“Green Grow The Rashes, O,” by Robert Burns
http://www.worldburnsclub.com/poems/translations/green_gro_the_rashes_o.htm

I love the sung version by Mary Black (can only find this one, with Altan):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qipJANuAnn0

Felix November 3, 2008 at 5:08 pm

People seem to be taking history too seriously after the first comment scared them. Teen culture, that is people 13-19 having independance, is relatively recent. 100 years ago, how many teens had mobile phones, email or cars? Population densities were much lower, mass transport was expensive, many teens had to work…

…there was no female or sexual liberation yet, there was no financial help for single mothers, catching STDs was more likely…

…contraceptives were less reliable, births were more dangerous, sex itself was a taboo…

…er, so there’s quite a few differences between ‘now’ and ‘then’ that meant people would have less sex. Also, many of our data was collected by the church, which has a serious agenda when it comes to sex.

I think the only lessons to be learnt from the past are how not to approach sex.

aure May 13, 2009 at 3:28 am

Is it realistic?

bluce May 13, 2009 at 3:30 am

Did I see this kind article before?

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