Friday, August 29, 2014

The Higher the Percentage of Mormons in a State, the Lower the Internet Pornography Use

In “Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?,” Benjamin Edelman (2009) examined Internet pornography subscriptions of one of the top ten providers using data aggregated by zip code.  To give readers an easier to understand geographic setting, he aggregated that data to the state level and gave critics of the Church new ammunition with a single data point that found that Utah had the highest rate of subscribers per thousand home broadband users of any state in the union. Zephaniah who writes for Mormon Monsters was typical in her conclusions to other critics blaming conservative sexual practices among members for high rates of pornography subscriptions. The purpose of this post is to offer evidence that those who suggest that Mormon sexual standards contribute to pornography use equivocate logically and provide additional empirical support suggesting that pornography use falls in a state as the percentage of Mormons rises.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mormons and STDs

A funny thing happened while studying one topic.  I found that the variables I was using predict the level of STDs by state.  The variables are the percentage of women married, the percentage of highly religious as measured by a Gallup poll, the number of Mormons as a percentage of the state population (percentage Mormon), the percentage of males between 15 and 34, and the percentage with at least a high school education.  The statistical results are at the bottom of the post.  The variables explained 79.3 percent of the variation in the data and was significant at the 0.0 percent level.  Only the variable measuring the percentage of the population with at least a high school education was not statistically significant at the 10% level or better.  The remaining variables were significant at the 0.0 percent level.  More interesting than knowing variables that were statistically significant was knowing their sign.  They show that values important to Mormons result in lower levels of STDs. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Date Rape and the Coase Theorem


Date rape is non-consensual sexual intercourse by a person known to the victim.  According to Criminal Law Lawyer Source, eighty percent of rape victims know the attacker and over ninety percent are women.  Approximately 50 percent assailants and victims consumed alcohol prior to the incident (Abbey,et al, “Alcohol and Sexual Assault”).  The use of alcohol is problematic because it limits the ability of the parties to contract.  Date rape is common; one in four women will suffer from it (Abbey,et al, “Alcohol and Sexual Assault”). 

The Coase Theorem states that the amount of an externality generating activity will be the same regardless of the assignment of rights if negotiating costs are zero of low.  In the case of date rape, rights are not well assigned and negotiating costs may be high.  Rape is the externality; it is the uncompensated impact of one person’s actions on a bystander.  Assuming a heterosexual event and a woman as victim, many factors can confuse consent.  As mentioned above, alcohol consumption limits the ability to contract implying that negotiating costs are high.  In the absence of well assigned property rights and low negotiating costs, sexual intercourse during dates will be too high.

The problem can be resolved by assigning property rights.  Although the theorem states that the amount of an externality (date rape) will be the same regardless of who is assigned the rights, assignment in this case should be given to women.  In most cases, men are stronger than women and a man’s strength could confuse consent if men were assigned these rights.  To limit date rape, grant women these rights.  Intercourse cannot occur without the women’s explicit consent which must be given in writing or in the presence of a third party of the woman’s choosing.  Consent cannot be given if a woman has been drinking prior to consent. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Evaluating Membership Growth: 2003-2013


LDS growth acceleration 2013

Earlier this week, the Newsroom of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released membership numbers by country.  LDS Church Growth offered analysis of the growth of membership in percentage terms and numerical increase.  There were few surprises.  Countries in Africa dominated the list of the top twenty countries with the highest annual growth rate.  The countries with the most members, the United States, Brazil and Mexico, dominated the list of countries with the largest numerical increase accounting for 49.3 percent of increase in membership.  In this post, I calculate the average annual geometric growth rate of the Church over two time periods, three years and ten years and use them to calculate the percentage increase in growth using the ten year growth rate as the base.  Whereas the geometric growth rate is the speed of growth, the percentage change in growth acts as a measure of acceleration. 

The ten countries that experienced the most rapid growth over the past decade are listed in the table 1.  To qualify for the list, a country must have more than 1,000 members in 2013.  Eight of these countries are in Africa. 

Table 1.  The Ten Countries with the Fastest Growing Membership over the Past Decade

Country Growth Rate 2013 Membership
Cameroon 20.65 1,359
Togo 18.66 2,307
Malaysia 15.26 9,259
Guyana 15.11 5,474
Malawi 14.99 1,653
Mozambique 13.32 6,900
Uganda 13.21 12,380
Ethiopia 12.35 1,807
Botswana 10.53 3,021
Cote d’Ivoire 10.32 22,576

The ten countries that experienced the most rapid growth over the last three years are listed in table 2.  As before, a country must have more than 1,000 members by 2013 to qualify.  All ten countries on the list are in Africa.  Growth in Africa has been so rapid that it should pass both Europe and Oceania in total membership before the end of the decade!

Table 2.  The Ten Countries with the Fastest Growing Membership over the Past Three Years

Country Growth Rate 2013 Membership
Botswana 31.42 3,021
Togo 22.79 2,307
Malawi 21.35 1,653
Ethiopia 17.11 1,807
Angola 15.50 1,436
Liberia 14.05 8,081
Sierra Leone 13.66 13,078
Madagascar 13.41 9,826
Cape Verde 13.13 10,796
Cote d’Ivoire 10.32 22,576

I used the three and ten year growth rates to calculate the percentage change in growth between the three year (G3) and ten year (G10) rates as using the following formula, ((G3-G10)/G10)*100.  The results for the world are presented in the color map at the top of the post.  Countries to the right of the 0 on the legend experienced accelerating growth, and on the left, decelerating growth.  While most countries experienced accelerating growth, the three countries with the largest membership bases, the United States, Brazil and Mexico, all experienced decelerating growth.  As listed in table three, African countries occupied five of the top ten positions, Europe occupied four and Oceania the remaining position. 

Armand L. Mauss asked in an article published in the International Journal of Mormon Studies, can there be a second harvest in Europe , (“Can There Be A “Second Harvest”? : Controlling the Costs of Latter-day Saint Membership in Europe,” June 7, 2013).  He even suggested an explanation for the growth.

Among the most recent and effective method for involving members in the missionary program is one that was “pilot-tested” in 2003, with the encouragement of two apostles, and finally implemented during the next two years in all of the stakes of the Europe Central Area, and perhaps in other areas as well. This method uses the CES classes with their Young Single Adults as “Institute Outreach Centers.” Under the ultimate direction of the local stake and mission presidents, these YSAs join with full-time missionaries to invite and bring young people of the same general age range (18 – 30) to local LDS Church buildings for Family Home Evenings, Institute classes, cultural and intellectual events, socials, and sports activities. Through these events, missionaries get many opportunities to teach young investigators in the chapels with YSA members present. So far the results of this program have been promising, not only in conversions but in retentions, for 80% of those converted through the Institute Outreach Centers are still active a year after baptism. Social scientists have long known that people in this transitional age range comprise the “demographic” most likely to be open to new ideas and experiences, including religious ones, so this approach appears to be a very effective “marketing strategy” for reaching the most likely “customers.”

While the growth rates in the European countries are still relatively small, they illustrate that the church can have success in secular, high income countries with low birth rates.  These programs may be successful for a second reason.  Not only do they attract and retain converts, they provide a grounds for youth to meet and marry LDS youth.  The Church seems to be stressing the formation of Young Single Adult wards and branches in the United States.  Perhaps the European success offers an explanation.  I would love to see the same strategy applied in Argentina, where I served a mission.  My limited experience suggested that youth who were lost could not find an LDS spouse. 

Table 3.  The Ten Countries with the Greatest Acceleration in Membership Growth over the Past Three Years

Country Acceleration Rate 2013 Membership
Belgium 245.77 6,145
Botswana 198.36 3,021
French Polynesia 183.09 23,594
Cape Verde 115.48 10,796
Finland 111.38 4,866
Portugal 99.01 41,917
Liberia 94.02 8,081
Switzerland 72.91 8,741
Angola 68.62 1,436
Kenya 57.58 57,748

Growth is certainly easier to achieve in countries with high birth rates.  My next effort at examining growth will adjust the growth and acceleration rates for the total fertility rate by country.  Knowing how to grow in low birth rate countries is important because the birth rate continues to fall around the world.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Growth by Country of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2013

This is the second of three posts statistically comparing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The first post compared the geographic distribution of members.  This post examines their international growth by country, and the final, growth over time.  The same disclaimer applies to this post as the fist.  My comparison is statistical, not theological.  Nothing presented should be viewed as indicating that one church is superior to the other.
Some basic definitions are in order.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses count a person as a publisher if he or she reports at least one hour teaching non-members per month.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints count as members children of record and people eight years and older who have been baptized.  Children of record refers to the children of members who are not yet nine years-old.  To be somewhat redundant, a child of a member who turns nine without being baptized is no longer part of the Church membership tally. 

The first color map shows the distribution of the growth in peak publishers throughout the world and the second, growth in Mormon membership.  There are similarities and differences to the distribution of growth.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses map looks darker green signifying lower growth but the nature of the map is due to the fastest growing country, Burundi, being geographically small and growing faster than other countries.  The table below the text compares the top ten fastest growing countries for both Churches.  Again, Mormon growth looks higher but this is at least in part due to comparing apples and oranges, or more accurately, participating and non-participating members. 

Both churches were growing faster in Africa than elsewhere.  Six of the top ten countries for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and eight for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were in Africa.  Two of the countries, Madagascar and Uganda made both lists.  In Asia, Malaysia made both lists as well.  In addition, Taiwan and Thailand made the Jehovah’s Witnesses list.  Both Churches had one South American country, Ecuador for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Guyana for the Latter-day Saints complete their lists. 

Growth in Jehovah’s Witnesses Peak Publishers and LDS Membership: 2013-2003

Country Peak Publishers   Members
Malaysia 15.26
Angola 6.82 Guyana 15.11
Malaysia 6.82 Malawi 14.99
Uganda 6.35 Mozambique 13.32
Taiwan 6.25 Madagascar 13.24
Thailand 6.00 Uganda 13.21
Equatorial Guinea 5.75 Ethiopia 12.35
Ecuador 5.43 Botswana 10.53
For countries with more than 1,000 peak publishers or members in 2013.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Geographic Distribution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2013

(Updated April 9, 2014 to include a omitted citation and correct a reporting error.) This is the first of three posts statistically comparing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The first post compares the geographic distribution of members, the second, the geographic distribution in growth of members and the final, growth over time.  My comparison is statistical, not theological.  While I am a Mormon and I believe that my Church offers a more direct path to truth and light than any other, nothing presented should be viewed as indicating that one church is superior to the other.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses present three types of membership numbers, peak publishers, average publishers, and memorial attendance.  I elected to report the peak publishers.  To be recorded as a publisher, a person must report at least one hour teaching non-members per month.  The color map shows the distribution of peak attenders throughout the world.  There are similarities and differences to the distribution of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.  As shown in the table that follows the text, both churches have more members in the United States than any other country.  Mexico and Brazil are the second and third highest in membership.  The Philippines is seventh in the Jehovah’s Witness ranking, and fourth in the Mormon ranking.  The remaining seven positions diverge considerably.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a greater presence in Africa, not surprising given the prohibition on African blacks holding the priesthood that was lifted in 1978.  Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia all rank in the Jehovah’s Witnesses top ten.  Two European countries, Italy and Russia, and an Asian country, Japan, round out the top ten.  In the Mormon top ten, but not the Jehovah’s Witnesses are Chile, Peru, Argentina, Guatemala, Ecuador and the United Kingdom.
A comparison of the two maps also suggests that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have maintain a presence in more countries than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but this may be part illusion.  For example, both convert Cubans living outside of their home countries but the Jehovah’s Witnesses show those members in their reported statistics.  The Church does not.  The wider international presence is part reality.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses are more regionally self-sufficient.  They often authorize these members to establish congregations and conduct missionary activities whereas the Church does not (see Martinich. "Comparing the International Growth of Latter-day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses" for a more fuller comparison of organizational structure.) 
Jehovah’s Witnesses Peak Publishers: 2013
Country Peak Publishers
Members Rank
United States
3 1,209,974 3
Nigeria 351,205 4 109,998 20
Italy 248,743 5 24,970 39
Japan 216,472 6 126,407 17
Philippines 189,101 7 675,166 4
Congo, Dem Rep 188,872 8 34,547 38
Zambia 170,861 9 3,044 80
Russia 168,123 10 21,709 43
Chile, Peru, Argentina, Guatemala, Ecuador and the United Kingdom round out the top ten for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Game Theoretic Approach to LDS Dating

The March 2014 issue of the “Ensign” contains an article my Elder Tad R. Callister titled, “The Lord’s Standard of Morality” that has provoked much comment.  The most controversial paragraph may be

The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men.  If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure. 

Understanding Elizabeth

In this post, I develop a game theoretic approach to Mormon youth dating.  The agents in this problem are Elizabeth and George who are both actively engaged in the Mormon youth program.  The agents might as easily be reversed to Joseph and Joan.  The main assumption of the model was taken from Callister who observed

Our dress affects not only our thoughts and actions but also the thoughts and actions of others.

Elizabeth is a typical LDS youth; she wants to “choose the right” but she also wants to be stylish and craves acceptance of her peers, particularly boys.  She was excited that George, the cutest boy in the ward, flirted with her at a combined youth activity.

Her excitement was tempered by a conversation she overheard in which George told friends that immodestly dressed girls made him hot.  She concludes that his statement is consistent with four personality types.  First, George is normal devout member like her and more likely to commit a “confessable sin” while dating a person who is immodest in dress or action; he was confessing a weakness and not betraying a hope.  George is blustering, a wannabe bad boy trying to avoid the label of “goody two-shoes.”  He might be personable but with average moral standards and not those of the Church.  Finally, he might be a “player” betraying preferences, not confessing weaknesses.  She estimates the odds of each as righteous (40%), blustering (30%), common (20%) and player (10%).  She decides to go because the risk of a bad outcome is low.