Is Secularization an Age-Related Process?

TitleIs Secularization an Age-Related Process?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationForthcoming
AuthorsIdler, E
JournalThe International Journal of Aging and Human Development
ISSN Number1541-3535
KeywordsReligion, secularization, Social Support

Secularization has been studied for decades by sociologists of religion. Long-running surveys in the United States and Europe show steady generational decline in religious affiliation and participation, and yet this trend has largely been ignored by gerontologists and life course researchers. We examined data from the Health and Retirement Study, hypothesizing between-cohort declines in religious participation. Based on data from a sample stratified by 10-year birth cohorts, we identified variation in patterns of religious involvement from 2004 to 2016. Measures of attending religious services, feeling religion is very important, and having good friends in the congregation show age-graded patterns; older cohorts have a higher level of religiosity than those following them, with only minor exceptions. For all three measures, differences by cohort within waves of data are statistically significant. We confirm, with longitudinal data, the findings of repeated cross-sectional surveys in the United States showing a generational pattern of decline in religiousness. The consequences of this loss of a common social tie for future older cohorts are unknown, since current older cohorts still maintain a high level of religious participation. However, future generations of older adults are likely to be less familiar with social support from religious institutions, and those institutions may be less available to provide such support as the apparently inexorable processes of secularization continue.

User Guide Notes

Alternate JournalInt J Aging Hum Dev
Citation Key11838
PubMed ID34459225