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

In: The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective

  • Rajeev Dehejia
  • Thomas DeLeire
  • Erzo F. P. Luttmer
  • Josh Mitchell

This paper examines whether participation in religious or other social organizations can help offset the negative effects of growing up in a disadvantaged environment. Using the National Survey of Families and Households, we collect measures of disadvantage as well as parental involvement with religious and other social organizations when the youth were ages 3 to 19 and we observe their outcomes 13 to 15 years later. We consider a range of definitions of disadvantage in childhood (family income and poverty measures, family characteristics including parental education, and child characteristics including parental assessments of the child) and a range of outcome measures in adulthood (including education, income, and measures of health and psychological wellbeing). Overall, we find strong evidence that youth with religiously active parents are less affected later in life by childhood disadvantage than youth whose parents did not frequently attend religious services. These buffering effects of religious organizations are most pronounced when outcomes are measured by high school graduation or non-smoking and when disadvantage is measured by family resources or maternal education, but we also find buffering effects for a number of other outcome-disadvantage pairs. We generally find much weaker buffering effects for other social organizations.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jonathan Gruber, 2009. "The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number grub07-2, September.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 0596.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0596
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    1. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2005. "The Intergenerational Effect of Worker Displacement," NBER Working Papers 11587, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532.
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    4. Richard B. Freeman, 1986. "Who Escapes? The Relation of Churchgoing and Other Background Factors to the Socioeconomic Performance of Black Male Youths from Inner-City Tracts," NBER Chapters, in: The Black Youth Employment Crisis, pages 353-376 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Thomas DeLeire & Ariel Kalil, 2001. "Good Things Come in Threes: Single-parent Multigenerational Family Structure and Adolescent Adjustment," JCPR Working Papers 242, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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    9. Neal, Derek, 1997. "The Effects of Catholic Secondary Schooling on Educational Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 98-123, January.
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    11. Richard B. Freeman & Harry J. Holzer, 1986. "The Black Youth Employment Crisis: Summary of Findings," NBER Chapters, in: The Black Youth Employment Crisis, pages 3-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Dehejia, Rajeev & DeLeire, Thomas & Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2005. "Insuring Consumption and Happiness through Religious Organizations," Working Paper Series rwp05-047, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    13. Rosemary Hyson & Janet Currie, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 245-250, May.
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    17. Marianne Page & Ann Huff Stevens & Jason Lindo, 2007. "Parental Income Shocks and Outcomes of Disadvantaged Youth in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective, pages 213-235 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Jonathan Gruber & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2006. "The Church vs the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?," NBER Working Papers 12410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    22. Aaronson, Daniel, 2001. "Neighborhood Dynamics," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 1-31, January.
    23. Antel, John J, 1992. "The Intergenerational Transfer of Welfare Dependency: Some Statistical Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(3), pages 467-73, August.
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