Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2013 Volume 9 :: Article 10
2013 Volume 9, Article 10
The Effect of University Characteristics on Student Religiousness: A Meta-Analysis of Catholic Universities

Author: D. Paul Sullins (The Catholic University of America)

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Despite frequent claims from religious colleges and universities that they instill and promote religious identity and despite evidence of growing student interest in religion, very little research - and no data on Catholic universities - linking university features to student religiousness are currently available. A meta-analysis of twenty-six studies measuring student religious outcomes in Catholic universities since 1960 found that overall religiosity in Catholic universities exceeds that at secular universities by about half a standard deviation. Student church attendance—an “objective” religious activity - is highly sensitive to institutional differences; prayer and self-assessed religiousness - reflecting “subjective” personal devotion or attitude - are not. Church attendance has dropped by half a standard deviation since the 1960s, most of the decline having occurred recently; it rises sharply with increased Catholic concentration and declines in universities that are more selective, as indicated by Carnegie undergraduate profile, and more wealthy, as indicated by average faculty salary. Requiring fewer theology/philosophy courses suppresses church attendance, and very high church attendance suppresses selectivity, indicated by SAT scores and admissions yield. The implications of these findings for improving Catholic identity and institutional metrics are discussed.

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