Thursday, November 13, 2008

The state of religiousity in the U.S. (among women of childbearing ages)

As you may or may not know, when I'm not ranting about my parents, I'm a sociologist. Specifically, I'm a grad student in sociology: I have a MA, and am planning on completing my PhD either next May or August depending on how things go (if I don't get this professorship job I just interviewed for I may end up staying in grad school until 2010).

The specific topic I study is family and gender, and my dissertation is about cohabitation in the United States. I do my research using large scale nationally-representative datasets.

Right now I am working on an index of religiosity- that is, a measure of how important religion is to the daily lives of people in my dataset. I want to account for this in my statistical models, since religiosity is highly correlated with cohabitation.

So here are some brand spanking new numbers I just calculated using the National Survey of Family Growth dataset. This dataset was collected in 1995 and 2002, is nationally representative, and specifically surveyed women age 15-49 (women of childbearing ages). So these numbers are only true for women age 15-49 in the US.

For all women age 15-49:
Religion very important: 57.04
Religion somewhat important: 36.45%
Religion not important: 6.5%

I'm specifically looking at women who have ever been married (so may be divorced or widowed at the time of survey, but were married at least once). For women age 15-49 who have ever been married:
Religion very important:60.90%
Religion somewhat important: 33.97%
Religion not important: 5.13%

For women age 15-49 who have ever been married and didn't cohabit before marriage:
Religion very important:68.03%
Religion somewhat important: 28.31%
Religion not important: 3.66%

For women age 15-49 who have ever been married and who DID cohabit before marriage:
Religion very important:51.29%
Religion somewhat important: 41.60%
Religion not important: 7.12%

It seems that not being religious is a pretty rare state for women of childbearing ages in the United States.


  1. Remember that statistic which showed that more Americans would vote for a presidential candidate who was Muslim than for one who was an avowed atheist?
    Not that there's anything wrong with being Muslim but shit- their brand of religion is not very popular in the US right now.
    I really don't understand it. I personally think there are a lot more atheists out there than are counted because they're all in the closet.
    Which is weird and odd, too.

  2. well religion not being important to your daily life is not exactly the same as being an atheist...there may be plenty of people who are atheists to whom religion is an important part of their daily life.

    For instance, B's dad is an atheist, but goes to church all the time with B's mom, who is very religious. So he would probably reply that religion is somewhat important to his daily life, becuase it does affect his daily life, even though he is an atheist.

  3. if I don't get this professorship job I just interviewed for I may end up staying in grad school until 2010

    What about adjuncting?

  4. It's interesting that though in "religion very important" the numbers are in line with one might expect, (higher level of cohabitation, lower levels of religion being very important), for those who said religion is not important, the numbers are reversed.

  5. there may be plenty of people who are atheists to whom religion is an important part of their daily life.

    That touches on the whole discussion about "Orthoprax" that's been going on over at both DovBear and XGH blogs.

  6. dys- once someone is on the 'adjunct track' it gets a lot harder to get a tenure track job. Also, I would be paid a lot less. If I stay in grad school another year, with the funding I have I would be paid around $30,000 if I taught one class a semester (2 classes a year). If I finished grad school and just adjuncted I would earn around $10,000 for teaching those same two classes- so I would have to teach 3x as many classes to earn the same amount of money. If I did that I would have no time to do the things one has to do to get a tenure track job (e.g., publish more articles)

  7. arn't the numbers being reversed for 'religion not being important' ALSO in line with what one would expect- that people who cohabit before marriage are more likely to say religion is not important to them.

  8. There's a very interesting article in the Nov. 3 New Yorker magazine about evangelical Christians and premarital sex resulting in babies.
    The girls of these religions are taught nothing about sex except to avoid it and end up having more out-of-wedlock babies than almost all other groups.

  9. ...and it seems that only half of women who declare that religion is very important to them do not cohabit before marriage...

  10. ...sorry. You cannot see from the data if it is half, because you do not know the relative size of the "did cohabit" and "did not cohabit" groups.

    But it is fair to assume that a relevant percentage of people who claim that religion is very important DO cohabit before mariage.

  11. I suppose that according to this statistics, you would fall into the "somewhat important" group.

    Of course, if you declare "not important", you will be in the "not important" group, since the review seems to be based on self-assessment. But I suppose that it is fair to assume that many people with similar levels of "religious practice" as you are in the "somewhat important" (or even "very important") group.

    Since you grew up in a very strict surrounding, it could be that you apply somewhat stricter "yardsticks" than people who grew up in the "somewhat important" category.

  12. Ah come on- you couldn't table it for us! ;) Yeah, so what would be the take longitudinally? Slight trend toward secularism? By age? Come on, you can't tease without breaking down the numbers!

  13. you're right - I must have mentally switched the stats somehow when I looked at them over the first time.

  14. But I think the stats do not say much. What does "somewhat important" mean? It can mean anything...

    And than I do not know whether it is scientifically correct to say "religion" generally without defining it, since the monotheistic religions exclude each other and any other religion. i.e. If you are a firm believer in christianism, then buddhism, judaism, and islam is not at all important to you, and vice-versa.

    And religions have very differing structures: some have a strong impact on everyday life, others less.

    And you could also ask whether a strong doctrinal system is not equivalent to religion, although it is not called religion. If you believe in women's equality and human rights (as defined in the universal declaration of human rights), is it not a religion, although it does not speak about metaphysics?

    So all you learn from the statistics is that so and so many percent said that...

  15. Interesting statistics, but might they be skewed because of the stigma of lack of religion, even if not outright atheism? It is usually considered praiseworthy to have strong religious impacts on your life, so I think people might be more inclined to say that they do, when in fact they do not.
    It's like people who think they are more frum than they are, simply because they consider it a good thing to be categorized as "more frum".

  16. How many 15 year olds are, or have been married?

  17. How reliable is this statistic. There are many who have religious ceremony, but never register it with the state for social programs. And of course there are those who are in poligomous relationships...

  18. My daughter's friend is a religious Christian (Orthodox) she is also living with a man. She claims that there is nothing in Christianity that prevents cohabiting and many of her church going friends are on the same path.

  19. this isn't based on religious ceremonies, this is based on nationally-representative survey that asked people "how important is religion to your daily life?". It is pretty reliable, since they surveyed over 1900 people. As to what exactly the question is asking, I'm not sure, but higher levels of religiosity is definitely correlated with both lower rates of cohabitation and divorce.

    Then again, being correlated with something doesn't mean that every single religious person won't cohabit or divorce, there is simply a trend, no trends in sociology can predict behavior 100%; people still have free will after all.

  20. Who cares about your ranting and raving? You're probably some ugly broad who couldn't find a Jew guy and hooked up with some sleazy goy. You're killing your parents, but what do you care, you selfish b***!

  21. MY ranting and raving aye? :)

    Well, for one, you seem to care enough to post your own rant.

  22. Anonymous said...
    Who cares about your ranting and raving? You're probably some ugly broad who couldn't find a Jew guy and hooked up with some sleazy goy. You're killing your parents, but what do you care, you selfish b***!

    November 19, 2008 5:47 AM

    Wow and you are sooo freaking brave anon!!!
    You are a coward and a low-life.
    Why don't pay attention to your own trifling life? Scrub.

  23. mlevin:

    This seems to be a fairly new development of christian faith. In the past, they had a lot against cohabitation before marriage...
    so it seems that the standards of the religion get looser as far as "virginity marriage" is concerned.

  24. im i the only one who finds nothing at all remarkable in these percentages? they seem to indicate, that in all groups, religion is "very important" to the majority of women, regardless of their coupling behavior. those who cite religion as "not at all important" dont even crack double digits. BFD all the way around.

  25. I agree with 12:36. Your "measure" of religiosity is far too crude and generalized to get at anything truly meaningful here.


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