Journal Article

Investigating the Effect of Bias in Survey Measures of Church Attendance

Philip S. Brenner

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 73, issue 4, pages 361-383
Published in print December 2012 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online July 2012 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srs042
Investigating the Effect of Bias in Survey Measures of Church Attendance

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That church attendance rates are overestimated by conventional surveys is well established. Much of the extant literature places the locus of the error primarily on measurement; overreporting on the part of the respondent. However, there has been relatively little research into the effect of this measurement error on the individual demographic predictors commonly associated with church attendance. In this paper, demographic subgroups are compared on their propensities to report church attendance in conventional surveys and time diaries across 14 countries and four decades. Findings indicate that these covariates are strongly correlated with both measures of attendance, but parameter estimates do not significantly or consistently differ between these modes. This finding suggests that, while conventional survey measures may overestimate population rates of attendance in some countries (i.e., North America), parameter estimates for these demographic predictors are largely unaffected by overreporting bias. Finally, limitations and future directions of research are discussed.

Keywords: attendance; measurement; methodology; survey research; quantitative methods

Journal Article.  7736 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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