All major religions prohibit premarital sex, but Muslims appear to take Islam’s proscriptions especially seriously. Why? Adamczyk and Hayes wanted to know whether the low level of premarital sex among Muslims was more a matter of individual choices (micro level effects) or national cultural forces (macro level effects). To test this, they looked at how the probability of a Muslim woman having had premarital sex changes depending on how dominant Islam is in the country where she lives. They found big effects, leading them to conclude that national culture has stronger effects than individual preferences:
If this woman lives in a nation where 1 percent of residents are Muslim, her predicted probability of reporting premarital sex would be .72. In a nation where 23 percent of residents are Muslim… the woman’s predicted probability would be .61. Finally, in a nation where 90 percent of residents are Muslim…the woman’s predicted probability of reporting premarital sex would tumble to .28.
While the researchers offer explanations for Muslim chastity, they have less to say about why Buddhists—perhaps surprisingly—rank highest in premarital sex. They offer that it could be because Buddhism is not monotheistic and has fewer “strict rules about specific behaviors.” But of course Hinduism is not monotheistic, either, and indeed, the field seems open for a follow-up paper on the religious dimensions of allowance.