- Commitment to one’s faith appears strongly correlated with commitment to one’s spouse.
- We see higher rates of marriage among regular church attenders in both white and black populations.
- Divorce rates are significantly lower for white Americans who attend church regularly. The relationship between divorce and church attendance is harder to interpret for black Americans.
Looking at how people identify themselves religiously across time allows for several interesting observations. First, the percentage of individuals identifying as Christian has declined from 89% in the 1970s to 70% of the population today. Second, the percentage who attend church two to three times per month or more is roughly half of those who identify as Christian across all decades. Third, a majority of the population identifies as Christian, which may explain why the divorce rates of this group may not differ much from the national average. Fourth, the “devout” represent a minority of the population, and their divorce and marriage rates may be significantly different.
Here, it is clear that marriage rates have been falling for the population as a whole. But those who attend church on a regular basis are significantly more likely to marry than their less devout peers.
The figure above shows that divorce rates are significantly lower for white Americans who attend church regularly and this difference remains significant across all decades. The relationship between divorce and church attendance is harder to interpret for black Americans. Factors contributing to the much more rapid decline in marriage rates for blacks may also contribute to greater instability within marriage for devout blacks, but why this would be the case is not clear.
Brian J. Hollar is an Associate Professor of Economics at Marymount University in Arlington, VA. You can find him on twitter: @brianhollar.
1. Age 25-54 represent prime working and marrying years—the period of life after most education has been completed and before retirement.
2. Unfortunately, when the General Social Survey was started in 1972, the only racial categories included were “white”, “black” and “other”. Since “other” represents numerous heterogeneous racial groups, this analysis focuses on “white” and “black” racial groups.
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