which state has the most incest

Which State Has The Highest Incest Rate: A Deep Dive into Inbreeding


In the realm of societal taboos, incest remains a topic of intrigue and discussion. The United States, known for its diverse culture and ethnicity, is also home to pockets of isolation where inbreeding persists. This article delves into the world of incest, exploring its prevalence in various states and shedding light on the science and consequences behind it.

The Most Inbred States in the United States

The states with the highest rates of incest incidence include Kentucky, Maine, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, Georgia, Oregon, Indiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Montana, Alabama, and South Dakota. These states harbor communities where inbreeding is more prevalent than one might expect.

Understanding Incest

Incest, defined as sexual intercourse between close relatives or individuals who cohabit, has been a documented phenomenon in human societies for centuries. Approximately 4% of the global population has engaged in sexual activity with a family member at some point in their lives.

Incest can involve various relationships, such as child and parent, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, half-siblings, first cousins, and even some extended family members. It is illegal in most countries and widely regarded as morally wrong.

Incest can be categorized into three primary forms:

  1. Oedipus Complex: A Freudian concept describing a child’s sexual attraction to their parent, this form of incest is relatively rare.
  2. Sexual Abuse: Occurs when one family member coerces another into a sexual act.
  3. Incest between Siblings: Includes relationships between step-siblings, biological siblings, cousins, and half-siblings.

The Science of Inbreeding

Inbreeding involves mating between genetically related individuals who share a common ancestor. In humans, this often occurs due to customs like cousin marriage and endogamy. The closer the relationship, the higher the likelihood of genetic abnormalities in their offspring.

Inbreeding can range from relationships between first cousins to siblings and beyond. It has been practiced throughout human history, especially in cultures that encourage arranged marriages.

While the genetic makeup of closely related individuals may not be identical, they share enough genetic information to increase the chances of inheriting detrimental genes. Inbreeding is not exclusive to humans; it is observed in various species across the animal kingdom, particularly in domestic canids like dogs, wolves, and coyotes. It also occurs naturally when small groups of the same species live in isolation and intermarry over generations.

Reasons for Inbreeding

Inbreeding serves specific purposes in various species, including humans. Some common reasons for inbreeding are:

  1. Preservation of Desired Traits: Inbreeding helps preserve rare genes and desirable characteristics, particularly in livestock and familial relationships.
  2. Low Reproduction Rate: Species with low reproduction rates rely on inbreeding to maintain bloodlines within a small population.
  3. Cultural Isolation: Inbreeding is prevalent in cultures and communities with limited exposure to outsiders, such as religious sects, immigrant populations, and ethnic groups with strong social connections.

How Inbreeding Affects the Human Genome

Inbreeding can have both negative and positive effects on a population. The negative consequences include increased rates of offspring mortality, decreased fertility, and the expression of genetic disorders due to the inheritance of deleterious alleles.

In most species, including humans, inbreeding between close relatives is generally avoided because it often results in offspring with lower fitness. This phenomenon, known as inbreeding depression, is caused by the expression of homozygous deleterious recessive mutations, involving complex interactions of multiple factors.

While inbreeding is often viewed negatively, some species have evolved genetic mechanisms to mitigate its adverse effects. Inbreeding doesn’t always have detrimental consequences.

The Most Inbred State: Kentucky

The state with the highest prevalence of inbreeding in the United States is Kentucky. This might come as a surprise to many, but it can be attributed to geographic and cultural factors. People moved to the isolated mountains of Kentucky, seeking a lower cost of living, leading to intermarriage among those with common ancestors.

One notable example is the Fugate Family of Kentucky, known for their inherited disorder and rare blue skin. Their condition resulted from related parents passing down recessive genes to their offspring.

Legality of Incest in the United States

In most states in the United States, incest is illegal and considered a criminal offense. The laws are typically part of the criminal code and cannot be modified by state law. However, there are exceptions in a few states.

In New Jersey and Rhode Island, incestuous relations between consenting adults are not considered criminal offenses, provided both individuals are of legal age. Marriage, on the other hand, is prohibited in such cases.

Ohio also permits incestuous relations between consenting adults if they are not in a parental role to each other.

First Cousin Marriage in the US

First cousin marriage, the union of two individuals who are cousins, is a practice that has gained prominence in certain regions of the United States, particularly in the South. About 250,000 people in the US have a family history that includes first cousin marriage.

Laws regarding cousin marriage vary by state:

  • 24 states prohibit first-cousin marriages.
  • 19 states allow first-cousin marriages.
  • 7 states permit only some first-cousin marriages.
  • 7 states prohibit first-cousin-once-removed marriages.

In the United States, legal marriage between first cousins is generally allowed if both individuals are of legal age. However, some states only recognize marriages between very distant cousins if they are from states that permit first-cousin marriage.


The prevalence of incest, particularly in the “Bible Belt” states, highlights the existence of closed communities and cultural practices that promote inbreeding. While incest can have significant genetic consequences, its persistence in certain regions underscores the complexities of societal norms and isolation.

Inbreeding remains a subject of both fascination and concern, shedding light on the intricate web of genetics, culture, and geography that shapes human behavior.

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