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Intermarriage and the demography of secularization

The British Journal of Sociology
Volume 54 No 1 March 2003
pages 83-108


One way of measuring religious affiliation is to look at rites of initiation such as baptism. English statistics show that for the first time since the Church of England was founded, less than half the nation is Anglican on this criterion. The pattern of formal religious transmission changed during the Second World War. Previously christening was quasi-universal, and the Church of England was the preferred provider. By the end of the war baptism was evidently optional, and chosen principally by parents whose religious identities matched. Further analysis suggests that affiliation now tends to be lost following marriage to someone from a different religious background, though the USA differs from Europe in this respect. A demographic theory of advanced secularization is outlined that specifies a proximal cause for declining religious affiliation, and provides tools for predicting the changes to be expected over future decades. The theory also helps to explain why affiliation may fall most quickly where there is most religious diversity.

Keywords: Intermarriage, homogamy, secularization, baptism, Church of England, religious affiliation

David Voas
Department of Sociological Studies, University of Shefeld