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The Role of Religious and Social Organizations in the Lives of Disadvantaged Youth

Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government

Using the National Survey of Families and Households, this paper examines whether participation in religious and other social organizations helps offset the negative effects of growing up in a disadvantaged environment.

Researchers collected measures of disadvantages and levels of parental involvement with various organizations for the period when the children were ages 3 to 19. Then they observed the youths’ outcomes 13 to 15 years later. They found strong evidence that youth with religiously active parents are less affected later in life by childhood disadvantage than youth whose parents did not often attend religious services. Those findings were most pronounced for graduating from high school and not smoking, and when disadvantages were measured by family resources or maternal education. Buffering effects were generally weaker for non-religious social organizations. Free. 51 pages. (617) 495-1100, http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP07-037/$File/rwp_07_037_luttmer.pdf.

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