Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sex Ratios in Church: Φ does the GSS

In the comments to my post on, inter alia, different levels of spiritual maturity between men and women, Trumwill suggested church attendance as a measurable proxy for spiritual maturity and pointed to GSS data showing substantially higher numbers of women attending church weekly.  In the context of our discussion (dating and marriage), I was keenly interested to see what the ratios were for what I considered the personally relevant demographic:  college educated whites in their twenties.

To that end, and for the first time, I have attempted to generate my own GSS results at this site.  In the interest of full disclosure, and to give my readers an opportunity to correct any errors I might have made in the use of the GSS, I have reproduced below the results of my query in their entirety:

SDA 3.4: Tables

GSS 1972-2008 Cumulative Dataset

Aug 22, 2010 (Sun 12:12 PM PDT)
Role Name Label Range MD Dataset
Filter AGE(22-29) AGE OF RESPONDENT 18-89 0,98,99 1
Filter DEGREE(3-5) RS HIGHEST DEGREE 0-4 7,8,9 1
Frequency Distribution
Cells contain:
-Column percent
-Weighted N
SEX 1: MALE 50.1
2: FEMALE 49.9
Color coding: <-2.0 <-1.0 <0.0 >0.0 >1.0 >2.0 Z
N in each cell: Smaller than expected Larger than expected
Allocation of cases (unweighted)
Valid cases 15
Cases excluded by filters or weight 51,427
Cases with invalid codes on
row or column variable
Total cases 53,043

My intention above was to compare the sex of respondents (ROW) with whether or not they had attended church in the last 7 days (COLUMN).  I filtered the data, considering only white respondents between the ages of 22-29 that held a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD.

The reason I think I made a mistake is that, according to this page, only 15 of 53,043 respondents met the filter criteria (or the “weight variable”, whatever that is) and also answered the church attendance question.  Fifteen!   Hopefully, someone can tell me how to tease out a larger sample.

That said, if my results are representative, then they indicate equal numbers of men and women attending church every week among white twenty-something college graduates.  Which means that neither men nor women seeking spouses of appropriate spiritual maturity are going to enjoy any special advantages at the others’ expense.

The bad news, sociologically speaking, that this data imply is that white working class men have left (or been driven away from) the church in significant numbers.


Don Ghixote said...

Not sure where you are located, but here in NYC (4% of city pop attends church) it is not 50/50. My friends who are pastors here in the city all say the ratio is around 20/80 men to women, possibly worse for the 20-35 range. Having gone around to many of the churches in the city, I've noticed the ratio firsthand and all my church-going friends would agree with the ratio.

My pastor said that ratio is about average for wherever you go in the West, but I don't know if he was referring to a study or if he was just personal anecdote-ing. I'll ask him and if he mentions data, I'll send it to you.

I don't think church attendance or participation in a church's groups, activities, teams counts as spiritual maturity. Most women I know in the above age range are great Christian women behind church doors and in church groups. However, outside of those doors they are no different than the average young woman in NYC who does not attend church. Christian women just let their rationalization hamsters run on their wheels more.

To find a truly spiritual Christian woman in church is tough nowadays. The same could be said of the men. What men that are spiritual are rarely manly, good-looking, have impressive jobs and/or are normal. So I get why the church women date outside of the church but they are silly to think that through charms and sex (personal experience is that a majority put out...they need to to survive the modern dating marketplace) they'll convert men over to Christ (please refer back to said 20/80 ratio for proof of failure).

Best part is that very few of the pastors I know will acknowledge this. The myth that women are more spiritual, more ethical, more moral, and more fair leads to the absurd pedestal-ization of them in the church. If women are the better, more spiritual sex, why would God give us the idea that the weaker, amoral, problematic sex - i.e. men - should be the shepherds/leaders of the church and in relationships? That's like letting the dumbest lemming lead the herd....over the cliff.

So I get blamed when I turn down a woman at the church. "You just turned 30, you should settle down and stop playing the field. There are plenty of great women in the church. You need to stop being so picky."

Uh Why? If I need a car, is it smart to go with the first used car I see on the lot without doing research on it because I'm running late? How will I know the brakes won't go out once I hit the highway? Because it was Christian owned? Because the Christian sings in choir, is on praise team and goes to the Women's Bible Study Group every Thursday?

Right, like a person should only be judged by the time they spend in church and not by the time spent outside of it. Frankly, I think a truly spiritual person does more for Christ outside of the church's doors than what he/she does within them. It is easy to be a Christian once a week for 1-2 hours. It is the other 6 days/117* hours of the week where one really shows how spiritual they are.

*I'm assuming 7 hrs of sleep/day with that number

PS - To be fair, I am not a paragon of Christian spirituality myself. I struggle all the time between my former behavior patterns formed during my atheist years and the ones now asked of me by my new-found faith. But based on observing me in church and all I do, many think I'm a "great Christian man." Again, they assume too much on little evidence.

Anonymous said...

I would ask why you didn't filter for marriage status (or did you and I missed it?), but heaven only knows how small the data set would be then! I would be curious what would happen if you swapped out the education criteria for marriage status, though.

In any event, while I would have expected some skew I would not be particularly surprised if the dropoff existed primarily among lesser-educated men. Worth noting, though, that it doesn't particularly negate what Regnerus is saying if he is referring to church participation. Which I immediately suspected that he was.

If true, though, it would also validate your experiences as not being atypical.

Anonymous said...

The more I think about it, the less I am concerned that marriage status is relevant. My initial thinking was that perhaps some men were taken out of the dating market because men are more likely to marry women without a college degree than vice-versa... but I'm not sure it matters. In fact, looking only at unmarrieds would ultimately move the pin in the other direction since 20-something women are more likely to be married than 20-something men. Also a potential factor is that more women than men have degrees, though I think women often tend to get their degrees later so that may be irrelevant.

Anyhow, absent data to the contrary, I will assume going forward that while female attendance may outnumber male attendance, this doesn't necessarily hold true for our subset of the population.

Congrats on getting the GSS working at all. I'm wondering if my problems were related to having a data set of 0, if yours was 15. That interface is not the easiest to wade through.

Φ said...

Trumwill: I reran the results for singles and you were right: the data set dropped to eight. OTOH, the ratio dramatically skewed: among weekly church goers, 62% were men. But now I have very little confidence that this is representative.

Anonymous said...

Oy. There have to be bigger sample sizes somehow.

Φ said...

Okay, I reran the simulation again, this time setting the "Weight" parameter to "no weight", which means all valid samples are treated equally. The results went back to 50/50: 3 men and 3 women reported attending church in the last 7 days; 1 man and 1 woman reported that they had not. Total valid samples: 8.