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The Effect of Religious-Based Mentoring on Educational Attainment: More than Just a Spiritual High?


  • Acknowledgments: This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

Lance Erickson, Department of Sociology, Brigham Young University, 2030 Joseph F. Smith Building, Provo, UT 84602. E-mail:


Although research has found a positive relationship between various forms of adolescent religious involvement and educational outcomes, little research has examined connections to educational attainment. Using a nationally representative sample of youth (the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health—Add Health), we examine the extent to which adolescent religiosity facilitates educational attainment (i.e., high school completion and college enrollment) and whether informal mentorships formed during adolescence with religious and nonreligious adults can help explain the link between adolescent religious involvement and educational attainment. The findings confirm that, like academic outcomes, religious youth are more likely to complete high school and enroll in college even when controlling for other individual and interpersonal factors that affect educational attainment. Furthermore, informal mentorships, particularly those with adults who have official religious positions (e.g., priest, minister, rabbi) play an important role in college enrollment.