The Positives and Negatives of Higher Education: How the Religious Context in Adolescence Moderates the Effects of Education on Changes in Religiosity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although longitudinal research suggests that declines in religiosity associated with higher education vary across religious traditions, it tells us little about variation in the effects of higher education on changes in religiosity more broadly. Higher education may promote increases in religiosity for some, particularly with many Americans now being raised in relatively secular homes. This research note uses multilevel growth curve models and four waves of longitudinal data to examine how the religious context in adolescence moderates the effects of higher education on changes in emerging adult religiosity, regardless of the direction of change. Religious tradition and parent religious service attendance assess the religious context in adolescence, and several religiosity scales and measures of religious behaviors assess dimensions of religiosity. Results show that higher education is particularly likely to lead to religious decline for mainline Protestants and those with religiously active parents, and to increases in religiosity for the religiously unaffiliated and those with parents who infrequently attend religious services. These findings demonstrate how the religious context in adolescence conditions the influence of education, thereby highlighting the variable nature of the influence of higher education on changes in religiosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)869-885
Number of pages17
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017



  • adolescence
  • educational attainment
  • higher education
  • longitudinal
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies

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