Cross-national variation in the social origins and religious consequences of religious non-affiliation

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Abstract

I argue that the social implications of religious non-affiliation vary across cultural contexts, leading to differences across nations in both who is likely to be unaffiliated and the religious consequences of such non-affiliation. I test these propositions by examining cross-national variation in associations with non-affiliation using multilevel models and cross-sectional survey data from almost 70,000 respondents in 52 nations. The results indicate that: 1) both individual characteristics (gender, age, and marital status) and nation-level attributes (GDP, communism, and regulation of religion) strongly predict religious non-affiliation; 2) differences in non-affiliation by individual-level attributes—women vs. men, old vs. young, and married vs. single—are greatest in nations with low levels of religious regulation and high levels of economic development; and 3) the effect of religious non-affiliation on religiosity varies considerably by the political and religious context, and to a lesser extent by the level of economic development in each nation. These results highlight cultural variation in what it means to be religiously unaffiliated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-270
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science Research
Volume70
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2018

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regulation
communism
marital status
economics
Religion
gender

Keywords

  • International
  • Multilevel analysis
  • Religion
  • Secular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

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title = "Cross-national variation in the social origins and religious consequences of religious non-affiliation",
abstract = "I argue that the social implications of religious non-affiliation vary across cultural contexts, leading to differences across nations in both who is likely to be unaffiliated and the religious consequences of such non-affiliation. I test these propositions by examining cross-national variation in associations with non-affiliation using multilevel models and cross-sectional survey data from almost 70,000 respondents in 52 nations. The results indicate that: 1) both individual characteristics (gender, age, and marital status) and nation-level attributes (GDP, communism, and regulation of religion) strongly predict religious non-affiliation; 2) differences in non-affiliation by individual-level attributes—women vs. men, old vs. young, and married vs. single—are greatest in nations with low levels of religious regulation and high levels of economic development; and 3) the effect of religious non-affiliation on religiosity varies considerably by the political and religious context, and to a lesser extent by the level of economic development in each nation. These results highlight cultural variation in what it means to be religiously unaffiliated.",
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