A new perspective on academic achievement: Accounting for religiosity


Horwitz, Ilana & Domingue, Benjamin (2018). A new perspective on academic achievement: Accounting for religiosity. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Religiosity is associated with a host of positive life outcomes, but research on religiosity and academic achievement is limited. Using survey data from Waves 1 and 4 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, we examine how differences in religious engagement during adolescence shape short and long term academic outcomes, including GPA and educational attainment. Based on social capital theory (Putnam 1993; Smidt 2013), we hypothesize (1) that more religiously engaged adolescents will have comparable scores on the Peabody Vocabulary Test but higher GPAs in middle and high school than religiously disengaged adolescents, even after accounting for a host of background characteristics and (2) that respondents who were religiously engaged during adolescence will have better long term educational outcomes than respondents who were not religiously engaged during adolescence. Our sample includes about 10,000 respondents aged 24–34 who completed in-home interviews at Waves I and IV and had official grades from school transcript data. Our primary outcomes of interest are high school GPA and educational attainment, as measured by years of education respondents completed by wave 4. Our key explanatory variable is religiosity in Wave I, which we construct based on answers to questions about the importance of religion, attendance of religious services, and frequency of prayer. We run a series of nested regression models that include school fixed effects and control for key background factors such as socioeconomic status, age, gender, and race. Our preliminary results confirm our hypotheses: religiously engaged respondents have the same Peabody Vocabulary Scores as those who are religiously disengaged, but the religiously engaged have higher GPAs in middle/high school. In addition, the religiously engaged have better long term educational attainment. We theorize that religiously engaged adolescents learn certain habits in their religious communities - conscientiousness and cooperation - that they successfully transfer into the school environment.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


Horwitz, Ilana
Domingue, Benjamin

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID