Family Formation and Religious Service Attendance: Untangling Marital and Parental Effects


Journal Article

© 2014, © The Author(s) 2014. The positive relationship between family formation and regular weekly religious service attendance is well established, but cross-sectional data make it difficult to be confident that this relationship is causal. Moreover, if the relationship is causal, cross-sectional data make it difficult to disentangle the effects of three distinct family-formation events: marrying, having a child, and having a child who reaches school age. We use three waves of the new General Social Survey panel data to disentangle these separate potential effects. Using random-, fixed-, and hybrid-effect models, we show that, although in cross-section marriage and children predict attendance across individuals, neither leads to increased attendance when looking at individuals who change over time. Having a child who becomes school aged is the only family-formation event that remains associated with increased attendance among individuals who change over time. This suggests that the relationships between marriage and attending and between having a first child (or, for that matter, having several children) and attending are spurious, causal in the other direction, or indirect (since marrying and having a first child make it more likely that one will eventually have a school-age child). Adding a school-age child in the household is the only family-formation event that directly leads to increased attendance.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Schleifer, C; Chaves, M

Published Date

  • January 1, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 46 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 125 - 152

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-8294

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0049-1241

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0049124114526376

Citation Source

  • Scopus