Thursday, August 30, 2007

Which religions have the most young people leave?

Uecker, Regnerus, and Vaaler just published a very interesting study examining the social sources of young people in the U.S. losing their religion. They analyze data from the Add Health data set, and they test if leaving a faith is related to religious affiliation, educational attainment, family formation, or various behaviors. They studied 10,000+ kids who were interviewed twice seven years a part. They were labeled as dropping out of a religion if they said they affiliated with it in the first interview but not in the second interview (actually, wave III).

The average number of "drop-outs" for the whole sample was 17%. (Note, there were also many who went from no religion to a religion, but they are not the focus on this article).

Here are the drop-out rates by denominational/ religion standing.

Clearly there is a lot of variation across religious groups. Why do you think that is?


Ben Dubow said...

While I'm not sure about "other religions", it seems interesting that Jewish, Black Protestant and Catholic are all on the lower end of the spectrum because all three have strong cultural components that the others don't have as much.

I'm not sure what the researchers asked, but especially in terms of self-identification this would be true.

Of course, there is also an interesting theological issue at play possibly--especially in terms of self-identification (as opposed to behavior... again, not sure what the data is based on).

Both Judaism and Catholicism teach a "once-Jewish/Catholic, always Jewish/Catholic" theology. Judaism through the birth mother and heredity/bloodline, and Catholicism through paedo-baptism.

Evangelicalism, on the other hand, explicitly holds an opposite theology--there is no assumption that kids who attend an evangelical group or church are actually evangelical or even Christians--you must positively "opt-in". By the very nature of the beast, attrition is (and should be) higher. For example, on any given Sunday at our church, we expect and hope that about 25-35% of the people present would not be "evangelical Christians"--very different from the expectation at a Catholic Mass or Jewish service.

Interesting stuff...

Interesting data.

Amishlaw said...

I wonder what is meant by "other religions?" Different denominations are not usually different religions. Are they talking about Mormons, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.? And, my pet hobby, where do the Amish, fit in? Are they "other religions?" I'm curious what the drop out rate would be for Amish, but my guess is it would be extremely low. Like Ben Dubow, I would imagine the lowest drop out rates are among the groups with the highest cultural components. That is one of the reasons the Amish have taken the deliberate tact of being different from "the world."

Jim said...

I can only comment on my 34 years in Pentecost. In my beginnings, I thought such reality of the Spirit in our midst could not be walked away from. How does one dismiss the Presence of God confirmed? Three decades later I've watched our youth go through every bit as much trauma as all others, adults go out the back door as fast as they come in the front. Such is the nature of "church"and "religion", I think, might be another matter...

Michael Kruse said...

The higher the psyhic cost to be a member, the higher the cost to switch. I think this evidences that perfectly.

Brad Wright said...

Ben, interesting ideas about the cultural aspect... I know lots of Catholics who feel they will always be Catholics.

The other category is just that... muslim, scientology, mormon, JW, etc.

As for the Amish, I would imagine that the study didn't interview enough of them to make an informed analysis. Studies often sample by phone or high schools.

Jim, you're right about lots of going in and going out with religion. That's why it is interesting to study both separately.

Michael, certainly the cultural ties add psychic costs... makes sense.