Posted June 19, 2009
Taken From the CARA Report -- CARA@georgetown.edu
Poor Teens Less Likely to Participate in Religion
According to Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “social class does matter when examining American teenagers’ religious participation and beliefs. Poor and non-poor teenagers differ considerably in their religious outlooks and religious activities.” He bases his observations on analysis of data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, a telephone survey of 3,290 U.S. teenagers and one of their parents conducted in 2002-2003. Among the differences he describes:
Poor teenagers are less active in organized religion than others of their age. Compared to non-poor teenagers, they are more likely to have no religious preference and less likely to regularly attend religious services, participate in religious Sunday schools, and join religious youth groups.
The religion of poor teenagers tends to be private and personal, rather than institutionally based. They are especially likely to pray, read scriptures, believe in a judgment day, and say that faith is important in their daily lives, despite their low likelihood of regularly attending religious services.
While poor teenagers stress the personal and private aspects of religion over the institutionally-based aspects, their personal religious activities are far more conventional than the highly emotional religious experiences that are commonly associated with the lower classes. Contrary to the common perception of lower class religion, it appears that poor teenagers’ religion is not especially experience-based, but it does have a considerable influence on their lives through prayer, scripture reading and an emphasis on faith in daily life.