Religion and Civic Life in the Age of the “Nones”: Longitudinal Evidence from the US

(joint work with Chaeyoon Lim, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

One of the most significant social changes in the US over the past decades is the fast growth of the number of Americans who have no religious affiliation – a trend commonly dubbed as “the rise of the Nones”. Since religion is widely viewed as a central pillar of public life in America, this trend may well leave a broader mark on American society. In this seminar, I will explore this topic by discussing two studies that focus on the impact of declining religiosity on civic engagement. The first study examines the links between state-level trends in religiosity and civic engagement since 2000. It exploits the fact that there is substantial variation across states in how secularization unfolds. The second study uses individual-level data that track religiosity and civic activities as people move through adolescence into adulthood. This is a critical phase for the formation of religious affiliations, beliefs and practices. We can thus study what happens to civic behaviours when people who grew up religiously become non-religious as an adult.