Why are there more divorces in the Bible Belt?

CNN wonders what fuels the relatively high divorce rate in the “Bible Belt” compared with the relatively secular Northeastern US?

Southern men and women had higher rates of divorce in 2009 than their counterparts in other parts of the country: 10.2 per 1,000 for men and 11.1 per 1,000 for women, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday.

By comparison, men and women in the Northeast had the lowest rates of divorce, 7.2 and 7.5 per 1,000, which is also lower than the national divorce rate of 9.2 for men and 9.7 for women.

“In the South, there are higher rates of marriage and higher rates of divorce for men and women,” said Diana Elliott, a family demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau and co-author of the new report. “In the Northeast, you have people who are delaying first marriages, and consequently there are lower rates of marriage and lower rates of divorce.”

This is not just an exercise in comparative fidelity. There are real social consequences for the high levels of divorce, especially for women and children:

…Divorce still pushes more women into poverty than men and affects their children, since children are still more likely to live with their mothers (75%) than their fathers (25%), according to the same U.S. Census report.

Some other findings:

• Women divorcing in the past year were more likely than men to be in poverty (22% versus 11%).

• Women divorcing in the past year had less household income than their male counterparts. Of those women, 27% had annual household incomes below $25,000, compared with 17% of divorced men.

• Women who divorced in the past year were more likely to receive public assistance than men (23% versus 15%).

• Children living with a parent divorcing in 2009 were more likely to live in poverty (28%) compared with other children (19%) and more likely to live in a rented home (53%) than other children (36%).

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