Civic Lessons That Last? Religiosity and Volunteering on the Way to Adulthood by Chaeyoon Lim and Dingeman Wiertz (2024)

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American Sociological Review


Recent religious declines in the United States are for a large part driven by the growing number of Americans who were raised religiously but left religion in the transition to adulthood. Nonetheless, their views and behaviors may still be influenced by their religious upbringing. We explore such legacy effects by examining how changing religiosity during the transition to adulthood influences volunteering among young adults. Analyzing panel data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, we estimate two types of effects: effects of cumulative religious trajectories in youth, and effects of religiosity in youth that are not mediated by religiosity in adulthood. We find that histories of religious involvement shape volunteering in adulthood, but the precise nature of such effects varies across dimensions of religiosity and types of volunteering. Religious service attendance in youth promotes volunteering in adulthood mostly indirectly, through influencing religiosity in adulthood, and exclusively for activities organized by religious groups. By contrast, religious identification in youth promotes volunteering in adulthood also through other channels, and its effects on secular volunteering may persist even when people are not religious in adulthood. We discuss the implications of these findings in light of ongoing declines in religiosity in the United States.