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Staying on Track in School: Religious Influences in High- and Low-Risk Settings

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Religious communities are known to instill standards of achievement in their young people, but this observation may not apply as well to disadvantaged youth and their culture. In this study, we explore whether religious involvement enables youth in low-income neighborhoods to stay on track in school, rather than falling behind. Using data from two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we find that adolescents in low-income neighborhoods do not differ in their church attendance patterns from their peers in higher-income areas. However, their religious involvement is more likely to contribute to their academic progress than it is among youth in higher-income neighborhoods, even with adjustments for key risk and protective factors. This cross-level interaction involving youth church attendance shows a consistent relationship with several other measures of neighborhood disadvantage. We explore explanations for church attendance's uniquely positive effect in impoverished neighborhoods and its broader implications.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Texas at Austin 2: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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