Teen abstinence is up even as weekly religious attendance down

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One of the upsides to the internet? All that information.

One of the downsides? All that information. Tons of it, spread all over the place. And who knows what’s reliable and what isn’t?

Say you want to know which direction the numbers in the U.S. are heading when it comes to welfare dependency. Or you’re curious about the divorce rate, or how bad teen drug use is. Or you’re wondering about unemployment or what the high-school graduation rate is.

Surprisingly enough, there’s a one-stop shop for fully-sourced information on these questions, and many more: The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Culture and Opportunity. I often describe it as a national dashboard of social indicators. And as always, some gauges this time out look pretty good. Too many others, however, are flashing red.

The Index isn’t intended to be a deep dive into policy minutiae. It’s a data-driven snapshot of where things stand, good and bad. But it’s not just a collection of charts and graphs. Short essays by a range of policy experts are included to give the issues context.

So what’s up, and what’s down? Here’s a sample of the bad news:

• A declining marriage rate. The median age of marriage rose from 23.2 years in 1970 to 29.5 in 2016 for men and from 20.8 years in 1970 to 27.4 in 2016 for women. “Marriage has long been a part of the American dream,” writes Rev. Derek McCoy. “People have an innate understanding that healthy marriages build healthy lives and families. But the declining marriage rate shows that the dream is fading.”

• Weekly religious attendance is down. It declined 2.1 percentage points between 2006 and 2016, continuing a gradual slide in recent decades. “The long-term decline in church attendance should trouble even those who are not personally religious,” writes John Stonestreet. As the scholarly research shows, “the benefits of regular church attendance are virtually impossible to dispute.”

• Teen drug use is up….

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