Penn Research Shows Religion's Positive Effect On Fatherhood And Academic Achievement

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | jposey@pobox.upenn.edu | 215-898-6460December 10, 2001

WASHINGTON -- The University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Manhattan Institute, today released two new studies documenting the positive role that religious organizations play in motivating men to become better fathers and children to become better students.

In "Good Dads: Religion, Civic Engagement and Paternal Involvement in Low-Income Communities," the first of two new reports, author W. Bradford Wilcox found that "the links between religious involvement and paternal involvement are particularly strong for lower-income fathers, probably because religious organizations tend to be pillars of moral and social order in low-income communities."

The study is the first to explore the links between religion, civic engagement and paternal involvement; the first to examine whether the effects of religion on fatherhood differ by income; and the first using nationally-representative data to examine whether non-religious civic engagement is associated with higher levels of paternal involvement.

The study gauged the level of paternal involvement in three areas: one-on-one interaction, dinner attendance and youth-related activities.

"Residential fathers who are involved in religious organizations are significantly more likely to have dinner with their children and to be involved in youth-related activities such as the Boy Scouts or sports teams," said Wilcox, a research fellow at The Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at Yale University and a non-resident fellow at The Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at Penn. The study was co-sponsored by the Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute.

In the second report, "Making the Grade: The Influence of Religion Upon the Academic Performance of Youth in Disadvantaged Communities," author Mark D. Regnerus found that "church involvement helps youth in low-income, high-risk neighborhoods progress in school much more than it does teenagers in more affluent neighborhoods.

"Churches are no less functional in more advantaged neighborhoods, but they are just one of many functional communities established there, together with schools, organized sports leagues, even shopping malls," said Regnerus, executive director of the Center for Social Research at Calvin College and non-resident fellow at CRRUCS.

He said that by contrast, "in high-risk communities, activities such as sports leagues and scouting are much more likely to be connected with and housed in churches."

"These two reports document the significant, independent, and positive role of religious organizations in combating two of our country's most pressing social problems - fatherhood and educational attainment in high-risk populations," said Byron Johnson, director of CRRUCS and adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society is part of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. CRRUCS is dedicated to producing and disseminating cutting-edge empirical knowledge about the role of religion in contemporary urban America. CRRUCS research is supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts.