Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 1.3 Religious Attendance and Religiosity

01/01/2000

Research relating religion to children’s day-to-day conduct suggests that teens who are religious are more likely to avoid high-risk behaviors.4

The number of 12th-grade students who report weekly religious attendance has declined from two out of every five students (41 percent) in 1976 to one out of every three students (31-33 percent) since 1987. During that same period, the percentage of 12th-grade students who report that religion plays a very important role in their lives stayed fairly constant, varying between 25 percent and 33 percent (see Figure SD 1.3).

Differences by Age. Data for students in the 8th and 10th grades, available since 1991, indicate that younger adolescents are more likely to report weekly religious attendance but are not more likely to report that religion plays a very important role in their lives (see Tables SD 1.3.A and SD 1.3.B). In 1999, 43 percent of 8th-graders reported weekly religious attendance, versus 38 percent of 10th-grade and 33 percent of 12th-grade students. During that same year, the percentage reporting that religion played an important role in their lives was between 32 percent and 33 percent for all three grades.

Differences by Gender. Females in all grades are somewhat more likely than males to report weekly religious attendance and that religion plays a very important role in their lives (see Tables SD 1.3.A and SD 1.3.B).

Differences by Race. Black students across grades have consistently been nearly twice as likely as their white counterparts to report that religion plays a very important role in their lives; for example, in 1999, 55 percent of black 12th-graders reported that religion played such a role, compared with 29 percent of white 12th-grade students.

4 National Commission on Children. 1991. Beyond Rhetoric: A New American Agenda for Children and Families. Final Report
of the National Commission on Children, p. 352. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

 

Figure SD 1.3 Percentage of high school seniors in the United States reporting weekly religious attendance and reporting religion is important in their lives: 1976-1999

Sources: Johnston, Bachman, & O’Malley, 1976-1997, 12th grade 1976-1988 Questionnaire Forms 1-5; 12th grade 1989-1996 Questionnaire Forms 1-6, items C13B and C13C; 12th grade 1997 Questionnaire, Core Questions, items C13B and C13C; and 12th grade 1998 Questionnaire, Core Questions, items C12B, C13, C13B, and C13C.

 

Table SD 1.3.A Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the United States who report weekly religious attendance, by gender and race: Selected years, 1976-1999

  1976 1981 1986 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998a 1999a
8th Grade
Total 46 43 42 42 42 43 44 45 43
Gender  
Male 44 41 39 40 40 40 42 42 41
Female 49 46 45 45 45 46 47 47 46
Race  
White 48 44 44 44 43 44 46 45 45
Black 47 46 42 42 46 45 46 49 46
10th Grade
Total 38 39 40 37 37 38 38 38 38
Gender  
Male 35 37 37 35 35 35 36 35 36
Female 42 41 43 39 40 40 41 40 40
Race  
White 39 39 41 37 37 38 39 37 37
Black 44 45 44 41 44 38 43 45 43
12th Grade
Total 41 40 34 31 32 32 32 32 33 31 32 33
Gender  
Male 36 36 31 28 31 29 30 30 30 28 29 33
Female 46 44 38 34 34 34 35 35 35 33 34 34
Race  
White 42 41 35 31 32 31 32 32 32 29 31 33
Black 37 40 36 38 35 35 39 40 38 40 41 40

a California schools omitted.
Note: Data for 8th and 10th grades available since 1991.
Sources: Johnston, Bachman, & O’Malley, 8th and 10th grade 1991-1996 Questionnaire Forms 1 and 2, item C12B, and 8th and 10th grade 1997 Questionnaire Core Questions, item C12B. 12th grade 1976-1988 Questionnaire Forms 1-5; 12th grade 1988-1996 Questionnaire Forms 1-6, item C13B; 12th grade 1997 Questionnaire Core Questions, item C13B; and 12th grade 1998 Questionnaire, Core Questions, items C12B, C13, C13B, and C13C.

 

Table SD 1.3.B Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the United States who report that religion plays a very important role in their lives, by gender and race: Selected years, 1976-1999

  1976 1981 1986 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998a 1999a
8th Grade
Total 29 27 30 30 30 32 32 34 33
Gender  
Male 27 26 27 29 28 29 30 32 31
Female 31 28 32 32 32 34 34 36 36
Race  
White 26 23 26 26 26 27 28 30 29
Black 46 46 42 47 45 47 48 52 51
10th Grade
Total 29 28 29 28 29 29 30 31 32
Gender  
Male 26 26 26 24 26 26 28 29 28
Female 31 29 31 32 31 31 33 34 34
Race  
White 24 24 26 24 25 26 27 26 27
Black 52 50 50 48 49 47 48 52 55
12th Grade
Total 29 31 26 28 29 29 30 30 31 30 32 33
Gender  
Male 24 25 23 24 26 26 27 27 27 26 28 30
Female 34 36 30 31 33 33 32 33 35 34 36 35
Race  
White 26 27 23 24 25 24 26 26 27 24 27 29
Black 51 51 51 50 51 51 49 52 55 55 57 55

a California schools were omitted.
Note: Data for 8th and 10th grades available since 1991.
Sources: Johnston, Bachman, & O’Malley, 1976-1999, 8th and 10th grade 1991-1996 Questionnaire Forms 1 and 2, item C13 and 8th and 10th grade 1997 Questionnaire Core Questions, item C13; 12th grade 1976-1988 Questionnaire Forms 1-5; 12th grade 1989-1996 Questionnaire Forms 1-6, item C13C; 12th grade 1997 Questionnaire Core Questions, item C13C; and 12th grade 1998 Questionnaire, Core Questions, items C12B, C13, C13B, and C13C.
 

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