Congregational attendance data are abundant, accessible, and relevant for religious research. Weekly attendance histories provide information about worshippers, congregations, and denominations that surveys cannot capture. The histories yield novel measures of commitment, testable implications of rational choice theory, and compelling evidence that attendance responds strongly to changes in the opportunity cost of time.
Strict churches are stronger because they reduce free riding, or the ability of members to belong yet not contribute to the group. The theory predicts that strict churches will tend to retain members and foster ongoing commitment while lenient churches will tend to lose members and exhibit very low levels of commitment. This theory builds off of rational choice assumptions and is compatible with the religious economies perspective.
Iannaccone, Laurence. 1994. “Why Strict Churches are Strong.” The American Journal of Sociology. 99(5): 1180-1211.
Kelley, Dean. (1972) 1986. Why Conservative Churches are Growing.Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.
by The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA),
Department of Sociology
The Pennsylvania State University
211 Oswald Tower
University Park, PA 16802-6207