Family Structure and Protestant Church Attendance: The Sociological Basis of Cohort and Age Effects
This paper is a response to Firebaugh and Harley (1991), as well as an attempt to enhance our understanding of age-related patterns in Protestant church attendance. Firebaugh's and Harley's arguments in favor of an "age effects only" model of Protestant church attendance are not compelling. Most importantly, age effects that are attributable to family formation sociologically imply cohort effects since there are substantial differences among cohorts in their propensity to form "traditional" nuclear families. In a new data analysis, I have empirically grounded age and cohort effects in the process of family formation. This analysis of 1972-90 General Social Survey data establishes that family structure variation partially explains both cohort effects and age effects on Protestant church attendance. These results, in addition to their intrinsic interest, considerably increase the plausibility of the age, period, and cohort interpretation versus the "age effects only" interpretation of Protestant church attendance.
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