Religion and Decisions About Marriage, Residence, Occupation, and Children


  • Acknowledgments: The authors express their gratitude to Wendy Cadge and David Cunningham for their support and especially helpful comments on earlier drafts of the article. We would also like to thank the Approaches to Social Research Seminar at Brandies University and the reviewers and JSSR editor, Marie Cornwall, for their valuable suggestions.

Emily Sigalow, Department of Sociology, Brandeis University, MS071, Waltham, MA 02454. E-Mail:


Using data from the first wave of the Portraits of American Life Study (PALS), we consider the extent to which people report that religious factors influence their decisions about career choice, marriage, residency, and number of children. We find significant positive relationships between the importance of religion or religious faith and the perceived influence of religious factors on one's choice of occupation, decision about whether or whom to marry, decision about where to live, and decision about how many children to have. We also observe significant interactions between the importance of religion or religious faith and religious tradition, but we find no consistent patterns across our decision-making outcomes. Our preliminary conclusions raise significant questions about the broader relationship between religion, perception, and decision making.