Found: A False Stereotype About Fundamentalists
By Bryan Caplan
Larry Iannaccone notwithstanding, the main stereotypes about fundamentalist Christians check out. But yesterday at lunch I heard a startling alleged counter-example from Alex Tabarrok, and I’ve confirmed it with the GSS: Contrary to stereotypes, fundamentalists are as likely to get divorced as the rest of the population.
What I did: I constructed a dummy variable indicating whether a person is now, or ever was, divorced. I then regressed this on the GSS’s 3-point Biblical literalism scale. With no control variables, there is no visible connection between the two. Controlling for church attendance, Biblical literalists actually look more likely to divorce. (Church attendance works as expected – more church, less divorce). Controlling for education (and any other demographics you might care to use), the effect of Biblical literalism is statistically insignificant, but still has the wrong sign (i.e., Biblical literalists are a tiny bit more likely to divorce).
I confess that I’m surprised. I would have guessed that fundamentalists would take their vows more seriously, and that their traditionalism would eliminate at least some marital conflict.
There I go again, overestimating the social benefits of blind faith in the Good Book!