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PLoS One. 2015 May 11;10(5):e0121454. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121454. eCollection 2015.

Generational and time period differences in American adolescents' religious orientation, 1966-2014.

Author information

1
San Diego State University, San Diego, California, United States of America.
2
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America.
3
University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America.

Abstract

In four large, nationally representative surveys (N = 11.2 million), American adolescents and emerging adults in the 2010s (Millennials) were significantly less religious than previous generations (Boomers, Generation X) at the same age. The data are from the Monitoring the Future studies of 12th graders (1976-2013), 8th and 10th graders (1991-2013), and the American Freshman survey of entering college students (1966-2014). Although the majority of adolescents and emerging adults are still religiously involved, twice as many 12th graders and college students, and 20%-40% more 8th and 10th graders, never attend religious services. Twice as many 12th graders and entering college students in the 2010s (vs. the 1960s-70s) give their religious affiliation as "none," as do 40%-50% more 8th and 10th graders. Recent birth cohorts report less approval of religious organizations, are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives, report being less spiritual, and spend less time praying or meditating. Thus, declines in religious orientation reach beyond affiliation to religious participation and religiosity, suggesting a movement toward secularism among a growing minority. The declines are larger among girls, Whites, lower-SES individuals, and in the Northeastern U.S., very small among Blacks, and non-existent among political conservatives. Religious affiliation is lower in years with more income inequality, higher median family income, higher materialism, more positive self-views, and lower social support. Overall, these results suggest that the lower religious orientation of Millennials is due to time period or generation, and not to age.

PMID:
25962174
PMCID:
PMC4427319
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0121454
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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