Still Losing My Religion: Disaffiliation Is No Longer Just for the Young

David McClendon, University of Texas at Austin
Conrad Hackett, Pew Research Center

We typically think of disaffiliation from religion as a young adult phenomenon. However, the rapid rise in persons claiming no religious affiliation in Europe suggests that a substantial amount of disaffiliation may be occurring among older adults (ages 30+) as well. Our paper examines the prevalence of mid-life disaffiliation in three European countries - Ireland, Switzerland, and Austria - using census microdata to track changes in levels of religious affiliation for ten-year birth cohorts from the 1970s-2000s. We find that while few adults in Ireland disaffiliate after young adulthood, a substantial number in Switzerland and Austria do. This surprising pattern of mid-life disaffiliation sheds light on the dramatic social change that has occurred in Europe over the past half century and suggests that religious change in other countries might happen more quickly than a cohort replacement model would predict.

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Presented in Poster Session 1