The Porn Belt

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Tyler Cowen points me to an interesting paper, Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?. Here’s an interesting map which shows states with high and low porn subscription rates (dark = high, light = low).

Here’s a table with the data, controlled for some variables.

This part is amusing:

The fourth column reports that in regions where more people report regularly attending religious services (per National Election Studies 2004), overall subscription rates are not statistically significantly different from subscriptions elsewhere…However, in such regions, a statistically significantly smaller proportion of subscriptions begin on Sundays, compared with other regions. In particular, a 1 percent increase in the proportion of people who report regularly attending religious services is associated with a 0.10 percent reduction in the proportion of purchases that occur on Sunday. This analysis suggests that, on the whole, those who attend religious services shift their consumption of adult entertainment to other days of the week, despite on average consuming the same amount of adult entertainment as others.

Remember Pete Du Pont’s op-ed, Gore Carries the Porn Belt?

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14 Comments

  1. Off the top of my head, there may be areas where broadband use is low and mostly used for porn. that’s my first quick take. But Utah is at the top of every ranking.

  2. There’s something fishy about this map: Where is the pattern?

  3. read the paper.

  4. Paper controls for broadband access.

  5. It is interesting that Utah is at the top in terms of porn use. My first impression was that it was a reaction to Mormonism. However, browsing through the paper, it appears that Utah’s high birth rate (and thus large number of young people) may be the main contributing factor. True, other states have high birthrates, but largely amongst people who tend not to have internet access. (ARRRGH!!! This reminds me of my pet peeve–low birthrates amongst the CogElite).

  6. obrien, i was going in your direction too. two points 
     
    1) even controlling for age there’s the porn consumption difference 
     
    2) utah is only 70% mormon right now, and salt lake is a majority non-mormon ciy 
     
    3) interestingly, idaho is the second mostly mormon state, and it isn’t high on the lists. in fact, large parts of southeast idaho has higher % of mormons than much of utah.

  7. John, the author (Endelman) controlled for broadband access rates. 
     
    The author also noted, like David, that the pattern is not very strong between states. The ratio from the highest to the lowest extremes (Utah vs. Montana) is only 2.85 times the subscription rate. 
     
    There are still some interesting relations though. Online adult subscriptions are 38% more common in urban areas, even controlling for income, age, eduction and broadband. Also, socially conservative states have more subscription (presumably because people are more sexually repressed). That would explain Utah, where 58% of the population is Morman. But ultimately the author concludes that porn is pretty much equally popular everywhere, and doesn’t show clear regional divides.

  8. p.s., the regressions seem to come out of a data set which drills down to granularity on the level of zip code, but that data is not in the tables or maps. it would be interesting if we could get a hold of the zip code level data, and see porn consumption in mormon idaho vs. non-mormon idaho (i.e., southeast idaho is really part of greater utah, vs. while the northern pandhandle is part of greater spokane [the inland empire]).  
     
    the author’s email is bedelman at hbs dot edu

  9. orion is right about the % of mormons. my bad. mormonism is eroding fast in utah in proportional terms.

  10. The most important variable is not “conservative legislation on sexuality,” but the extent to which laws against renting porn are enforced. Even though these cases rarely prevail in court, the willingness to charge brick & mortar rental outfits creates a powerful disincentive. Greencine, for example, won’t ship porn DVDs to Utah zip codes. This increases the attractiveness of online offerings. For example, I’d suggest that Edelman regress Greencine’s list of restricted zip codes against the rest of his data.

  11. That seems entire reasonable Eugene. However, unless things have changed in the last three years (and they very well could have) Mississippi had a noticeable number of porn stores on I-20. Would this not have an effect also?

  12. Eugene, 
     
    I’d also say 2 other factors: 
     
    1. Most people don’t purchase porn, they download it for free – so people who purchase it, must have some reason for doing so, like fear of the law or something. 
     
    2, Might it be that in areas where sexual mores between couples, whether married or not, are more open, that people don’t need to consume as much porn, they can get it at home for free. I’m thinking of sex acts that some religions frown upon, for instance.

  13. High birth rates might shape demand for porn in another way (besides creating younger populations). A lot of women don’t care much for sex in the last stages of pregnancy or in the first half year or so after the birth, when they tend to be very wrapped up with the baby. A recipe for sexual frustration among previously satisfied husbands.

  14. Eugene makes a very good point. This is a small sample and purely anecdotal, but I drive through Oklahoma to Texas often and have noticed that there are no porn outfits on I-35 or I-44. This contrasts Texas where porn stores on highways are relatively common. In this study, Oklahoma has higher porn subscription than Texas.

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