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                            Georgia State University
ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University
	Summer 8-18-2010
Living Together: Conservative Protestants and Cohabitation
	Anthony E. Healy
		Recommended Citation
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Page 1

Georgia State University
ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University

Sociology Theses Department of Sociology

Summer 8-18-2010

Living Together: Conservative Protestants and
Anthony E. Healy
Georgia State University

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Recommended Citation
Healy, Anthony E., "Living Together: Conservative Protestants and Cohabitation." Thesis, Georgia State University, 2010.
mailto:[email protected]

Page 2




Under the direction of Dr. James W. Ainsworth


Recent research finds that conservative Protestants are cohabiting in no small numbers. Given

the strict moral orientation of conservative Protestants, that outcome appears paradoxical. This

thesis explains that paradox through the culture in action models of Swidler (1986), given the

social and economic location of conservative Protestants. The thesis employs pooled General

Social Survey data from 1993 to 2008 in which a question is asked that indicates cohabitation.

The thesis finds that the social and economic location of conservative Protestants is related to

their cohabiting. Though conservative Protestant cohabitors have lessened religiosity, much of

the decline in religiosity compared to married conservative Protestants is due to the factors

leading to cohabitation. But views and practices on premarital sex are the greatest factor in

reducing that difference. The

and unsettled lives in explaining cohabitation among conservative Protestants.

INDEX WORDS: Cohabitation, Religion, Culture, Conservative Protestants

Page 45


conservative Protestants and Catholic and mainline Protestants is not significant. Interestingly,

mainline Protestants have a significantly higher rate of marriage than other religious identities.

Cohabitor Characteristics

The descriptive data in Table 2 supports the contention that conservative Protestant

cohabitors are less advantaged than cohabitors in general, as proposed in Hypothesis 1b.

Significantly more conservative Protestants cohabitors receive family incomes below $20,000

(37.2%) than cohabitors in general (30.6%), and significantly less had 16 years or more of

education (9.0%) than cohabitors in general (20.6%). Significantly more conservative Protestant

cohabitors are of a disadvantaged race and live in a more disadvantaged region. Compared to

cohabitors in general, more are Black or other race (36.1% vs. 24.7%) and live in the South

(55.1% vs. 33.2%). Significantly more conservative Protestants experience marital disruption:

More recall non-intact families at age 16 (47.3% vs. 38.5%) and more are divorced (35.7% vs.

31.1%). Notably, a substantial and significantly greater proportion of conservative Protestant

cohabitors have children (70.1% vs. 59.1%). That difference is partly due to a high proportion of

currently divorced among conservative Protestant cohabitors (who bring children into

cohabitation). Other than due to a small proportion of widowed and separated cohabitors, most of

the remainder appears to be due to never married persons with children. In fact, 53.7% of never

married conservative Protestant cohabitors have children (data not shown).

Conservative Protestant cohabitors are significantly more likely to agree that premarital

sex is always or almost always wrong (20.2% vs.13.5% for all cohabitors), but that is still a

modest minority. Notably, among non-affiliates, that proportion is trivial (3.5%)

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Religiously, significantly more conservative Protestant cohabitors attend services

regularly (31.2% vs. 18.9% of all cohabitors), pray daily (67.9% vs. 43.3%), and express strong

affinity for their religious affiliation (26.8% vs. 21.3%). This table supports Hypothesis 2b, which

predicts that conservative Protestants have higher religiosity than mainline Protestant, Catholic,

and non-affiliated cohabitors. It shows significant differences exist between conservative

Protestant cohabitors and other religious identities in attendance and prayer. The regular

attendance rate for conservative Protestants is higher than for mainline Protestants (10.7%),

Catholics (23.3%), and non-affiliates (1.8%). The rate of daily prayer is higher than for mainline

Protestants (41.3%), Catholics (41.7%), and non-affiliates (17.1%). Differences in strong affinity

are non-significant (a measure not applicable to non-affiliates), but conservative Protestants do

have significantly more strong affinity than all cohabitors.

To test Hypothesis 1b, which holds that conservative Protestant cohabitors are less

advantaged than other identities, Table 3 regresses family income on religious identity and

control variables for the population of cohabitors.

Each of the three religious identities in

Model 1 has a positive coefficient, indicating they have significantly higher family incomes than

conservative Protestants. The introduction of background variables of gender, race, urbanity, and

region in Model 2 modestly reduces the unstandardized regression coefficient (16.5%) for

mainline Protestants. It reduces the coefficient to non-significance for Catholics and non-

affiliates. Gender is instrumental in the change. The change is due to an increase in the difference

in family income for mainline Protestants in relation to conservative Protestants with the

introduction of gender (as well as urbanity) and of gender alone for Catholics and non-affiliates.


A regression run with a dependent variable for family income whose missing values are

replaced by the mean is not substantially different than the table presented here in which missing

values are not replaced in the dependent variable.

Page 89


Seventh Day Adventist

Swedish Mission

Triumph Church of God

Way Ministry, The


Wesleyan Methodist -- Pilgrim

These denominations from the GSS DENOM
and OTHER files were classified as mainline

DENOM file:
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

American Lutheran Church

Episcopal Church

Lutheran Church in America

Presbyterian, Merged

United Methodist Church

United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

OTHER file:
American Reformed

Baptist (Northern)

Christian Disciples

Congregationalist, First Congregationalist

Disciples of Christ

Evangelical Reformed

First Christian Disciples of Christ

First Church

First Reformed


Grace Reformed

Hungarian Reformed

Latvian Lutheran




Reformed Church of Christ

Reformed United Church of Christ


United Brethren, United Brethren in Christ

United Church of Canada

United Church of Christ

United Church of Christianity

These denominations from the GSS DENOM
and OTHER files were classified as Black

DENOM file :
African Methodist Episcopal Church

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

National Baptist Convention of America

National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.

OTHER file:
African Methodist

Apostolic Faith

Christian Tabernacle

Church of God in Christ

Church of God in Christ Holiness

Church of God, Saint & Christ

Disciples of God

Federated Church

Holiness Church; Church of Holiness

House of Prayer

Missionary Baptist

Pentecostal Apostolic

Sanctified, Sanctification

United Holiness

Zion Union

Zion Union Apostolic

Zion Union Apostolic-Reformed

Other all denominations in DENOM and
OTHER file were classified as Other

In the RELIG file, Catholic was classified as
Catholic. No affiliation was classified as
NONE. All others (except Protestant who are
classified as above) are classified as Other

Page 90




Mail: P.O. Box 3999 In Person: Alumni Hall

Atlanta, Georgia 30302-3999 30 Courtland St, Suite 217

Phone: 404/413-3500

Fax: 404/413-3504

September 18, 2009

Principal Investigator: Ainsworth, James William

Principal Investigator Department: Sociology

Protocol Title: Cohabitation and religion

Submission Type: Protocol H10064

Review Type: Exempt Review

Approval Date: September 17, 2009

The Georgia State University Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviewed and approved your IRB

protocol entitled Cohabitation and religion. The approval date is listed above.

Exempt protocols do not require yearly renewal. However, if any changes occur in the protocol that

would change the category of review, you must re-submit the protocol for IRB review. When the

protocol is complete, a Study Closure Form must be submitted to the IRB.

Any adverse reactions or problems resulting from this investigation must be reported immediately to the

University Institutional Review Board. For more information, please visit our website at


Susan Laury, IRB Chair

Federal Wide Assurance Number: 00000129

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