The 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth shows that students who now worship weekly and who grew up with two married parents are most likely to have received a high school degree.
Examining current religious attendance and structure of family of origin, 93 percent of students who grew up in intact married families and who attend weekly religious services have received a high school degree. Only 68 percent of students from all other family structures who never attend religious services received a high school degree. Eighty-nine percent of those who never worship but grew up in intact families and 81 percent of those who attend religious services weekly but come from other family structures received high school degrees.
Examining current religious attendance only, 87 percent of students who attend weekly religious services received a high school degree. In contrast, only 70 percent of those who never worship received a high school degree. Between these two extremes are those who attend at least monthly (81 percent) and those who attend less than monthly (76 percent).
Examining structure of family of origin, 91 percent of individuals who grew up with married biological parents received a high school degree. They are followed by those who grew up in a married stepfamily (80 percent), those who grew up with a single, divorced parent (76 percent), those who grew up in a cohabiting stepfamily (68 percent), those who grew up with an always-single parent (63 percent), and those who grew up in an intact cohabiting family (60 percent).
See the original article for footnotes, including links to other studies that confirm this finding.
The reason why this matters is because finishing high school is very important in order for people to avoid being poor.
Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And, finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior.
If you graduate from high school today with a B or C average, in most places in our country there’s a low-cost or financially assisted post-high-school education program available to increase your skills.
Most jobs start with wages higher than the minimum wage, which is currently $5.15. A man and his wife, even earning the minimum wage, would earn $21,000 annually. According to the Bureau of Census, in 2003, the poverty threshold for one person was $9,393, for a two-person household it was $12,015, and for a family of four it was $18,810. Taking a minimum-wage job is no great shakes, but it produces an income higher than the Bureau of Census’ poverty threshold. Plus, having a job in the first place increases one’s prospects for a better job.
Finishing high school is a major factor to prevent poverty, but research shows that the greatest preventer of child poverty (and child abuse) is marriage. Marriage stability also increases with regular church attendance. So, church attendance promotes both the completion of high school as well as the stability of marriage. Therefore, regular church attendance prevents poverty by helping two of the causes of poverty-avoidance.
Now… should we expect the secular left to promote church attendance based on this evidence? I think not.
One other point. The more marriage declines, the more children are raised without fathers, which makes it much less likely that children will accept the faith of their parents, leading to lower church attendance for the children of these fatherless homes. It’s a vicious cycle. The policies of the left that undermine marriage stability, like sex education, taxpayer-funded abortion, no-fault divorce and single motherhood welfare, actually cause the decline in church attendance that drives marriage rates and high school graduation rates down.