Get access

A Person-Centered Examination of Adolescent Religiosity Using Latent Class Analysis


  • Acknowledgments: This research was supported by funding from the William T. Grant Foundation and Lilly Endowment Inc. The authors thank Christian Smith, Melinda Lundquist Denton, and several anonymous reviews for comments on the article. The authors accept full responsibility for any errors.

Correspondence should be addressed to Lisa D. Pearce, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina, Hamilton Hall, CB #3210, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3210. E-mail:


Empirical studies of religion's role in society, especially those focused on individuals and analyzing survey data, conceptualize and measure religiosity as ranging from low to high on a single measure or a summary index of multiple measures. Other concepts, such as “lived religion,” “believing without belonging,” or “fuzzy fidelity” emphasize what scholars have noted for decades: humans are rarely consistently low, medium, or high across dimensions of religiosity including institutional involvement, private practice, salience, or belief. A method with great promise for identifying population patterns in how individuals combine types and levels of belief, practice, and personal religious salience is latent class analysis. In this article, we use data from the first wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion's telephone survey to discuss how to select indicators of religiosity in an informed manner, as well as the implications of the number and types of indicators used for model fit. We identify five latent classes of religiosity among adolescents in the United States and their sociodemographic correlates. Our findings highlight the value of a person-centered approach to understanding how religion is lived by American adolescents.