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Religious Switching

Also known as reaffliation, this concept refers to shifts within religious traditions. The concept of religious switching is commonly conflated with the concept of religious conversion. Reaffiliation refers to changes within a specific tradition, like changing denominations within Evangelical Protestantism. Conversion refers to changes across religious traditions, such as changing from Hinduism to Islam. 

Religious switching can be operationalized by taking into account a respondent’s parents’ religious affiliation and comparing it with the religion claimed by the respondent himself or herself. This assumes individuals share the religious (or non-religious) affiliations of parents. Using longitudinal data a researcher could also compare the religious affiliation of a respondent over time while married to someone who affiliates with a different denomination. Using religious identity or RELTRAD to locate respondents within a tradition is a common practice.


Sherkat, Darren E. 1991. “Leaving the Faith: Testing Theories of Religious Switching Using Survival Models.”  Social Science Research 20:171-187.

Sherkat, Darren E. 2001. “Tracking the Restructuring of American Religion: Religious Affiliation and Patterns of Mobility, 1973-1998.” Social Forces 79:1459-1492.

Sherkat, Darren E. and John Wilson. 1995. “Preferences, Constraints, and Choices in Religious Markets: An Examination of Religious Switching and Apostasy.”  Social Forces 73:993-1026.


The following are possible measures of Religious Switching that can be created using data from theARDA.com
In 2000, Steensland and colleagues proposed a new method for classifying religious tradition which was based on both doctrine and historical changes in religious groups.  The schematic divides religious traditions into black Protestant, Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Jewish, mainline Protestant, no religion, and "other" religion.  The "other" category functions as a catch-all to reduce missing cases in multivariate analyses with listwise deletion, but should not be substantively interpreted, as it contains a mixture of Eastern religious traditions, Mormons, and everything in between.  The classification scheme is created by using variables such as affiliation and denomination to classify respondents. View related items in the Measurement Wizard:
This asks respondents what religious tradition their parents ascribe to and allows researchers to investigate why individuals maintain or change from the religious tradition they were exposed to when younger. View related items in the Measurement Wizard:
Several files in theARDA's Data Archive have examples of this Measure.
Q31A - 2005 Baylor Religion Survey
MaRelig - 1988 General Social Survey PaRelig - 1988 General Social Survey Moms Relig - 1998 General Social Survey Pops Relig - 1998 General Social Survey PRelign - 2003 National Study of Youth and Religion (Wave 1) Search the ARDA for similar measures.
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