Stop Blaming Young People for Leaving Religion

Much of the decline in current religious commitments can be traced back to the way young adults have been raised.

Daniel A. Cox April 10, 2022

An African American teenager male attending church.

National Review

Over the last decade, there has been a steady stream of news stories about how young people are abandoning their formative faith commitments. These articles frequently argue that despite their parents’ best efforts, young people are bent on forgoing any association with organized religion, along with all the benefits that come with it. This story is compelling, and for many concerning, but it’s not entirely right. Or rather, it’s only half the story.

Compared to young adults a generation ago, young people today are less religious by every conceivable metric we have for measuring religious commitment. They go to church less, say religion is less important, have more doubts about the existence of God, and increasingly identify with no religious tradition. But this trend isn’t exclusive to young people: The same pattern is evident among every single age cohort. Americans in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s are less affiliated and less involved in formal and informal worship than people the same age were a few decades earlier.

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Survey Reports

An illustration of the side profiles of four people. From left to right: a young white man with blond hair, an older Black woman with short, curly Black hair, a young woman with tan skin and black hair with a blue streak, an older man with darker tan skin with curly grey hair and a mustache.

Daniel A. Cox, Beatrice Lee, Dana Popky
April 27, 2022

Politics, Sex, and Sexuality: The Growing Gender Divide in American Life

The March 2022 American Perspectives Survey examines the growing gender divide in American Life.

Daniel A. Cox
March 24, 2022

Generation Z and the Future of Faith in America

Data from the American National Family Life Survey paints a complicated picture of religious change and disaffiliation in the country today.

Daniel A. Cox
February 9, 2022

Emerging Trends and Enduring Patterns in American Family Life

The American National Family Life Survey examines the changing contours of American family life in the country today.

bridge between college graduates and those without a degree

Daniel A. Cox
December 13, 2021

The College Connection: The Education Divide in American Social and Community Life

The 2021 American Community Life Survey illuminates the growing social divide between Americans with college educations and those without.