It has been said, “There are lies, there are damn lies, and there are statistics.” Statistics have been described as an art, not a science.
In The God Makers, numerous Utah statistics are given as evidence that things are not well in the LDS Church.
It is important to note that official government reports of social statistics do not include the religions of the subjects involved. Even if they did, they would not indicate the degree of faithfulness or commitment of a person to a particular religion, which would have an influence on their social behavior. Consequently, application of seemingly negative statistics to any particular church is speculative at best and certainly inappropriate. For example, while Utah divorces occur at a rate equal to the national average, among LDS members in the U. S. and Canada who are married in temple ceremonies according to Church teachings divorce occurs at only one-third the national rate.
The statistics the authors quote refer mostly to Utah. Since statistics on Utah include 30 percent non-Mormons and, in addition, some non-observing Mormons and semi-observing Mormons, they cannot accurately give a picture of what is happening in the lives of faithful, devout members of the Church.
Nevertheless, an objective analysis of the available statistics shows Utah and its people compare favorably with other states.
The statistics the authors cite come mainly from a 1982 Denver Post series about Mormonism, and the Post gives no documentation.
Some of the statistics in the book are accurate, others are obviously not true.
There are different standards for gathering data. Some have suggested, for example, that minor offenses in child and wife abuse are counted in some areas and ignored in others. Regions of the country vary also. Utah may be worse than the national average in some cases, but best in the Mountain States. All areas of the country have both positive and negative statistics. Utah certainly has more than its share of favorable statistics. The authors, who claim “objectivity,” strained to give only negative undocumented figures.
A few social statistics follow, presented first in summary, with national and regional data and rankings, then in more extended description.
UTAH SOCIAL STATISTICS IN BRIEF
(Latest available data as of January 1986.)
50 States and
|(Percent of pop.)|
|High School graduates||80.0%||66.5 (2nd)||75.2 (1st)|
|Attended college||44.1%||31.9 (1st-tied)||39.5 (1st-tied)|
|College graduates||19.9%||16.2 (8th)||18.8 (2nd)|
|(per 100,000 pop.)|
|Diseases of the heart||196.3||328.7 (47th)||226.4 (7th)|
|Influenza & pneumonia||13.4||23.4 (48th)||19.8 (7th)|
|Diabetes||10.2||15.1 (47th)||11.0 (6th)|
|Pulmonary diseases||17.6||25.7 (48th)||30.0 (8th)|
|Cerebro-vascular||42.0||71.3 (47th)||48.5 (7th)|
|Chronic liver diseases||6.7||12.8 (49th)||10.9 (7th)|
|Atherosclerosis||6.1||12.2 (48th)||9.9 (8th)|
|Cancer||93.8||184.0 (49th)||136.3 (8th)|
|III. Mortality Rate
(per 1,000 pop.)
|Death Rate||5.5||8.6 (48th)||6.9 (8th)|
|Birth Rate||27.3||15.8 (1st)||19.7 (1st)|
|Percent of population under 17||37.6||26.7 (1st)||29.7 (1st)|
|Fetal and Infant mortality (deaths per 1,000 live births)||9.8||11.9 (46th – tied)||10.4 (7th – tied)|
(per 100,000 pop.)
|13.4||12.1 (18th)||17.3 (8th)|
|Murder||3.5||8.3 (41st-tied)||6.5 (8th – tied)|
|Robbery||64.0||214.0 (39th – tied)||113.0 (4th – tied)|
|11.4||28.8 (50th)||24.4 (8th)|
(per 1,000 pop.)
|4.9||4.9 (24th-tied)||7.0 (8th)|
(percent of pop.)
Affiliation with any religious organization
|75.3%||51.7 (2nd)||47.1 (1st)|
|VIII. Owner-occupied Homes
(percent of pop.)
|70.7||64.4 (8th-tied)||67.6 (1st)|
UTAH SOCIAL STATISTICS
Utah is first in the nation in percent of adults who have attended college, and eighth in percent of college graduates.
B. High School
Utah ranks second in the nation in percent of high school graduates, with 80 percent of the state’s population receiving a high school diploma (U. S. Statistical Abstract, p. 135).
Recent figures show that 5.65 percent of Utahns 12 years and older used drugs within a 30-day period, about half the national average of 10.2 percent (NIDA).
B. Alcohol Consumption
Historically, the state of Utah has had one of the lowest rates of alcohol consumption in the nation. In 1982, Utahns consumed 1.71 gallons of alcohol per capita compared with the national rate of 2.81. In other Mountain States, consumption is above the national average. Nationally, 35 percent of the drinking age population abstains from alcohol; in Utah the figure is 66 percent (NIAAA).
According to the latest available figures, 34 states have a higher rate of alcoholism than Utah. It is estimated that there are 5,634 alcoholics per 100,000 U.S. population. The Utah rate is 24.5 percent lower, with 4,254 alcoholics per 100,000 population (Albrecht, p. 8).
How does Utah rank with other states in the incidence of the following diseases, according to the latest available figures?
Diseases of the heart 47th
Influenza and pneumonia 48th
Diabetes mellitus 47th
Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases 48th
Cerebro-vascular diseases 47th
Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 49th
(U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 76)
E. Venereal Diseases
In 1983, Utah reported a syphilis rate of 3.7 per 100,000 population, about one-tenth the U.S. rate of 32.1.
During the same year, the Utah rate for gonorrhea was reported at 85.8 per 100,000 population, about one-fifth the national rate of 387.6 (Utah Dept. of Health, Epidemiology).
III. Mortality Rate
A. Life Expectancy
In 1980, Utah was ranked third in the nation in longevity. During that year, the death rate was 5.5 per 1,000 population (U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 72).
B. Birth Rate
Utah’s live birth rate per 1,000 population is 27.3, nearly twice the U.S. average of 15.8 (U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 59).
C. Median Age
Utah’s population is the nation’s youngest, with a median age of 24.2 years. Thirty-seven percent of Utah’s population is under age 17; about 27 percent of the nation’s population is in this age bracket (U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 29).
D. Fetal and Infant Mortality Rates
In 1981, Utah ranked 46th in fetal and infant mortality, with 9.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. The national average during this same year was 11.9 deaths per 1,000 live births (U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 73).
The latest comparative figures available (1983) show the U.S. rate at 12.1 suicides per 100,000 population, Utah’s rate at 13.4 and the Mountain States Region at 17.3 (Utah Dept. of Health, Statistics). The Mountain States rate is higher than the U.S. average and is often the highest in the nation. However, Utah suicide rates are typically the lowest in the Mountain States.
In 1978, Utah had a bankruptcy rate of .06 percent compared to .28 percent for the nation. However, the most recent statistics show that Utah ranked seventh out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for the highest net percent increase in the number of bankruptcy petition filings for the period between 1978 and 1984 (Utah Economic Review).
B. Child Abuse
There are no reliable data to make valid state-by-state child abuse comparisons. Nevertheless, Utahns appear to be more sensitive to the problem of child abuse than most other states; Utah child abuse reporting laws are among the strictest in the nation.
C. Violent Crime
In Utah, the violent crime rate (which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) is about one-half the national average. In 1983, Utah’s murder rate was 3.5 per 100,000 population compared to the national rate of 8.3. During the same year there were 64 robberies committed per 100,000 in Utah versus 214 robberies as the national average (U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 167).
V. PREGNANCY AND ABORTION
A. Out-of-Wedlock Births
In 1983, Utah had 77.43 out-of-wedlock births for every 1,000 live births, compared to the national average of 202.8 (Utah Dept. of Health, Statistics).
In 1982, for every 1,000 Utahns, there were 11.4 abortion, less than half the national average of 28.8 (U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 68).
A. Utah Rates
In 1984, the divorce rate was 4.9 per 1,000 population in Utah. This figure is right at the national average, and is the lowest of the Mountain States region which had a rate of 7.0 (U.S. News, p. 12).
B. LDS Church Rates
Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is a form of marriage that is of deeper significance to Church members; this marriage ceremony is performed in temples. The divorce rate for members married in temples is one-third the U.S. average. In addition, younger couples (under 19) marrying in a temple of the Church have a divorce rate less than one-fifth the national rate for the same high-risk age group.
A. Religious Affiliation
In Utah, 75.3 percent of state residents associate themselves with a religious organization. Only Rhode Island has a higher percentage. The national average is 51.7 percent (U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 52).
B. Religious Education Level
Sociologists have found in many studies that higher education dampens religious devotion, but research shows it has the opposite effect on members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS Church members were asked about church attendance, payment of tithing, prayer, scripture study and professed beliefs. Among males, 34 percent of those with grade
school education reported weekly attendance. That figure increased to 71 percent of males who were college graduates and 80 percent of those with graduate school training. The figures for females ranged from 48 percent for those with a grade school education to 82 percent for those with a college degree. However, attendance, along with other measures of religious practice, dropped slightly for women with post-graduate education (BYU Research Institute).
C. Church Attendance
In a typical week in 1984, 53 percent of LDS members attended church, the highest percentage among all denominations listed in the study. The U.S. average, regardless of denomination, was 40 percent (Princeton Religion Research Center, p. 1).
VIII. OWNER-OCCUPIED HOMES
In Utah 70.7 percent of the homes are inhabited by owners, com- pared to 64.4 percent U.S. average, ranking Utah seventh highest (U.S. Statistical Abstract, p. 733).
Sources (cited on pages 40-46 by the abbreviations in parentheses):
1. U.S. Bureau of Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1985 (105th edition) Washington, D.C., 1984. (U.S. Statistical Abstract)
2. Statistical Review of Government in Utah, 1985 edition, compiled and published by Utah Foundation. (Utah Statistical Review)
3. National Institute on Drug Abuse: National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, Rockville, MD 1982, and State Division of Alcoholism &: Drugs: Incidence and Prevalence Survey, 1982-83, Salt Lake City, UT, 1984. (NIDA)
4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Statistical Compendium on Alcohol and Health, Rockville, MD, 1981; State Division of Alcoholism & Drugs: Incidence and Prevalence Survey, 1982-83, Salt Lake City, UT, 1984; and Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System: U.S. Apparent Consumption for Calendar Year 1982; Washington, D.C., 1983. (NIAAA)
5. Albrecht, Stan L., “Alcohol Consumption and Abuse,” Department of Sociology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. (Albrecht)
6. Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Health Statistics – November 1, 1985, revised 1890N. (Utah Dept. of Health, Statistics)
7. Report compiled by the Utah Department of Health -1985, Bureau of Epidemiology. (Utah Dept. of Health, Epidemiology)
8. U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 21, 1985. (U.S. News)
9. Princeton Religion Research Center, Emerging Trends, Vol. 6, No. 10, December 1984. (Princeton Religion Research Center)
10. Church Membership Survey, researched and compiled by Tim B. Heaton and Kristen L. Goodman (Provo, Utah: BYU Family and Demographic Research Institute, 1981). (BYU Research Institute)
11. Utah Economic and Business Review, Volume 45, Numbers 7 and 8, July, August 1985. (Utah Economic Review)