Tuesday, March 10, 2009

People do not age out of their secularism: Recently, Razib and I both used GSS data to show what other surveys have been showing: compared to older Americans, the young are less religious. But it is possible that this is due to an aging effect. One might tend to grow more religious as one gets older and finds a secular life unrewarding. I have seen research before (don't recall where) that found support for this.

I did not. Taking 18-22 year olds in 1990-1994, I followed them up until 2008 when they would have been in their mid-30s:

Percent who never go to church

1990-94 14.7
1995-99 21.1
2000-04 17.4
2005-08 21.0

Any changes just look like noise to me. It's possible that religiosity might develop in one's forties or older, but I doubt it. If the current cohort of twenty-somethings stay consistent like this older group has, their share staying completely away from the pews will be almost 30%.


  1. outeast7:23 AM

    Two queries:

    1) Why is not attending church assumed to be a good proxy for secularism?

    2) Do you have any reason for doubting that religiosity would not develop later?

    WRT the latter question: Personally, and purely based upon personal experience and anecdote, I would have expected to see the shifts at entry to maturity (ie around 20-22, which is in your starting band) and again at around midlife-crisis time...


  2. As I have aged (43) now and become exposed to more of the inequalities and unfairness of life I have found that I have become less religious than I was in my youth.

  3. Anonymous8:45 PM

    "2) Do you have any reason for doubting that religiosity would not develop later?"

    Do you have any reason for doubting that it would develop later?

    Hmmm.... but actually I wonder, which is more parsimonious?


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