Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Summary of findings

(Post seven of a series on Christian divorce rates)

In the past several posts, I have presented data from various surveys regarding divorce rates among Christians compared to others. Here I would like to summarize these findings plus offer some qualifications about how much they tell us.

1) Active Christians vs. non-active Christians. In each of the studies, those Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, who attended church about once a week or more had substantially lower divorce rates than those Christians who did attended church less frequently.

2) Christians vs. members of other faiths. It's not clear that there are meaningful differences in divorce rates between Christians and members of other religions. Of all the issues analyzed here, this is the most ambiguous because of the inconsistent nature of the "other religion" data. The composition of "other religions" varied a lot across sample, and a clearer statement on this comparison would need to examine other religions individually.

3) Christians vs. people of no faith. Christians as a group, but especially those who were active, had substantially lower divorce rates than individuals professing no religious belief (e.g., atheism, agnosticism). Sometimes as much as half the rate.

4) Black versus white Christians. Black Protestants, or, in the case of the GSS data, individuals attending predominately black denominations, have much higher divorce rates than white Protestants or members of other religions. It's unclear if this is a simple race effect (i.e., blacks vs. whites regardless of religion) or a race by religion effect (the effect of religion varies by race).

5) Protestants versus Catholics. In some data sets active Catholics had somewhat lower divorce rates than protestants, in other data sets they had comparable rates. No consistent difference emerged across data sets.

6) Frequency of attendance. Divorce rates for Christians drop considerably when going from period attendance to weekly attendance. I.e., the functional form does not appear to be linear, rather it's a threshold effect at about one week.



Benjamin said...

Hey Brad-

I'm not sure if it is possible, but it would be interesting to seperate out as a factor among Christians the theological position on divorce.

In other words, does a pastoral position against divorce and/or consistent teaching on the issue influence divorce rates?

Also, it would be interesting to see Evangelicals seperated out from Mainliners, etc.

Great stuff!


brewright said...

Sigh, you ask a far more interesting question than I'm able to answer. The pastoral position question would require rich data about the pastor's view on divorce and their members propensity for divorce + involvement in the church, data that may not exist.

As far as Evangelicals vs. Mainliners, this requires rich denomination data that most surveys don't have. Some do, though, including the GSS which I posted last Tuesday.

Thanks for the comment.

Benjamin said...

My bad... I see the Evangelical vs. Mainline numbers now.



n8v said...

So... is it, "people who attend a Christian church weekly are less likely to get divorced", or is it "people who have been divorced are less likely to attend a Christian church weekly"?

I think both statements are plausible, but among people I know I would say the first is a little more accurate.