Irenic Thoughts

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Is the South the Most Sinful Region?

Four Kansas State University geography researchers created what they call a not-so-serious study to correlate some data found in the census to the Seven Deadly Sins. The group found that the southern U.S. — encompassing an arc from North Carolina through Louisiana — was the region where folks were most likely to commit one of the traditional seven deadly sins.

Reseracher Thomas Vought told the Catholic News Service that the study is not an authoritative review. "I don't think we started this to send a message to anyone," he said. "It was a fun exercise."

The CNS article goes on to report:
The study revolved around the traditional seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Vought explained that the researchers wanted to use objective data to help in their analysis to avoid subjectivity and bias. So they turned to census data, FBI crime reports and Department of Health and Human Services statistics.

Plotting the data by county, the researchers were able to project where each of the seven deadly sins were more prevalent or less prevalent.

Here is how the Kansas State researchers calculated the sinfulness of any one region:

— Sloth: expenditures per capita on entertainment and recreation, such as video games and movie rentals, that tend to keep people isolated from one another as reported in the "U.S. Census Bureau 2002 Economic Census: Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Report."

— Greed: comparing total per capita income with the number of people living in poverty per capita as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

— Envy: statistics from "FBI Uniform Crime Reports" related to stealing, i.e., robbery, burglary. larceny and motor vehicle theft.

— Wrath: more statistics from the FBI, but for rape, assault and murder.

— Gluttony: comparing the total number of fast-food restaurants per capita as reported by the "U.S. Census Bureau 2002 Economic Census: Food Services and Drinking Places Report."

— Lust: the number of sexually transmitted diseases per capita from data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

— Pride: With no data that could be related, the researchers calculated pride as the aggregation of the other six sins.

Vought said the researchers found that the sins of gluttony and sloth were minor compared with greed, lust, envy, wrath and pride. The most gluttonous area, so to speak, encompassed southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Pockets of gluttony also were found in central Appalachia and western Texas.

Slothful pursuits also were few and far between. The data showed sloth most common in southern Montana, south-central Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

Greed was more widespread with large pockets in southern Florida, much of California, southern Nevada, western Arizona, and the Atlantic Coast from northern Virginia through southern New England. No surprise there. But, surprisingly, significant pockets of greed showed up in Seattle and western Washington, Denver and northern Colorado, the Houston and Dallas areas, an arc around the southern tip of Lake Michigan, and the area around the western basin of Lake Erie.

The least greedy areas proved to be the Southern states in an arc extending from Georgia through Arkansas and northeastward into West Virginia, north-central Texas, and the upper Midwest from Kansas to North Dakota.

When it came to envy, wrath and lust, data pointed to the South as being the most sinful area. A swath from western Appalachia to the upper Midwest proved to be the least sinful.

Pride, the aggregate of all the other sins, largely matched the patterns for envy, wrath and lust....

Vought admitted that questions abound when it comes to mapping an abstract concept like sin. He acknowledged that the analysis, while based on official statistics, is not perfect.

"People will read into it what they will," he said. "That's all my colleagues and I really want."
The full text of the article is online here: Sin in America.



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