Religious Affiliation and Contraceptive Usage: Changing American Patterns, 1955-82

By Calvin Goldscheider, William D. Mosher

Population Council, February 1988

This paper presents national estimates of contraceptive usage patterns among white women from 1955-82 for the major religious populations in the United States. Drawing on several surveys, the data show that in 1955 differences in contraceptive use between white Protestants and Catholics were very large and corresponded to the higher fertility levels among Catholics. By 1982, all the major religious groups had experienced downward changes in expected family size and all used effective contraceptive methods, including sterilization, the pill, arid the IUD. Despite some convergence in the patterns of contraceptive usage over time, significant differences in contraceptive use styles remain among Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and those of no religious affiliation after multivariate controls eliminated socioeconomic and socio-demographic differences among these subpopulations. The evidence points to the multiple contraceptive paths to similar levels of low fertility. A series of hypotheses are proposed to account for these different contraceptive use styles that relate to religious communities, peer pressure and social norms, differential sex roles, male-female communication patterns, and the differential use of physician based versus other sources of contraceptives.

Topic: Family, Women, Religious Denominations, Sexuality

Name of Publication: Studies in Family Planning

Volume/Issue: vol.19/no.1

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Genre: Report

Coverage: United States

Identifier: ISSN 0039-3665

Language: English

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Goldscheider, Calvin. Mosher, William D. Religious Affiliation and Contraceptive Usage: Changing American Patterns, 1955-82. Studies in Family Planning. Population Council. February 1988:


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