Changes in Religious Giving Reflect Changes in Involvement: Age and Cohort Effects in Religious Giving, Secular Giving, and Attendance

Authors

  • MARK O. WILHELM,

    1. Mark O. Wilhelm is Associate Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.
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  • PATRICK M. ROONEY,

    1. Patrick M. Rooney is Director of Research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. E-mail: rooney@iupui.edu
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  • EUGENE R. TEMPEL

    1. Eugene R. Tempel is Professor of Higher Education and Philanthropic Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, and Executive Director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
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should be addressed to Mark O. Wilhelm, Department of Economics, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, 425 University Boulevard, Indianapolis, IN 46202. E-mail: mowilhel@iupui.edu

Abstract

We present two patterns over time in religious giving, secular giving, and religious service attendance. The first pattern describes the prewar cohort (born 1924–1938) as they aged between middle adulthood (ages 35–49) and their senior years (ages 62–76). The second pattern compares the baby boom cohort (born 1951–1965) in middle adulthood to the middle adulthood of the prewar cohort. We present patterns for all families as well as separately for Catholic and Protestant families using data from three sources. The prewar cohort increased their religious giving and attendance as they aged, but—compared to the prewar cohort in middle adulthood—baby boomers give less than expected to religion and attend less. Baby boomer giving is noticeably less than expected and attendance noticeably lower among Catholic boomers, but less so among Protestant boomers. We argue that together these patterns are evidence that changes in religious giving reflect changes in religious involvement.

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