Religion and Fertility: The United States in International Comparison

Charles Westoff, Princeton University
Tomas Frejka, Independent consultant

Early in the 21st century fertility was higher in the United States than in European countries. Has U.S. religiosity contributed in a meaningful way to this fertility differential? American adults consider religion much more important than do citizens of other industrialized countries. The relationship between religion and fertility will be analyzed utilizing data of the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. The paper will put this analysis into a historical and international perspective. A preliminary analysis demonstrates that 57.8 percent of female respondents consider religion as a very important part of their life; 31.6 are “born again Christians”. There is a strong positive association of intentions to have another child with religious affiliation; and a strong positive association of having two or more births with religious affiliation. Religiousness shows a strong positive association with fertility in all four main ethnic groups.

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Presented in Session 101: Religion, Ethnicity and Reproductive Health