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Conservative Churches and Fertility Innovation: A Cultural-Ecological Approach to the Second Demographic Transition Among Nonblacks in the United States

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This article investigates whether the prevalence of conservative churches, which has been associated with variation in demographic patterns in Western Europe ( Lesthaeghe and Neels 2002), can explain geographic differences in family demographic patterns—specifically fertility—in the U.S. nonblack population. Lesthaeghe and Neels find that a second demographic transition (SDT)—characterized by increasing prevalence of nontraditional family and household structure—is hindered by the presence of strong conservative religious institutions. The high religiosity of the United States compared with Western Europe makes it an interesting test case for the theory. This article analyzes the relationship between nonblack fertility and rates of membership in conservative Protestant and Latter Day Saint churches (conservative churches) among nonblacks in U.S. counties and shows that conservative church membership indeed is an independent factor in geographic differences in family demographic patterns—especially with regard to the timing of parenting, but less so with regard to nonmarital childbearing.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Sociology Mississippi State University

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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