Spirituality and Proscocial Values in the Absence of Religion Among Millennial’s and their Families

Principal Investigator: Merril Silverstein

Active Dates: 2019 – 2024

Funding Source: John Templeton Foundation


Research has demonstrated a generational shift in religious identification and participation, with more than one-third of millennials–those born after 1980–professing to have “no religion” or “no belief in God”. On the other hand, evidence points to strengthened pro-social (humanitarian and collectivistic) values in millennials compared to preceding generations. Further, spirituality has persisted to some extent among millennials despite their declining religiosity. The underlying hypothesis is that religiosity has become decoupled from prosocial values and spirituality for many millennials, compared to their parents and grandparents. Research activities include (1) surveying 1,700 members of the millennial generation, and their parents and grandparent, in families who participated in the Longitudinal Study of Generations; (2) interviewing 125 millennials and their parents and grandparents. It is important to note that this project brings together scholars and their collaborators from a consortium of three universities, each with complementary strengths that together provide a multi-disciplinary and comprehensive analytic framework for understanding religiosity and secularity among millennials. Deliverables will include research publications, professional symposia, a dedicated scholarly conference, and an edited book on the topic of generational change in religiosity, spirituality and prosocial values, with an emphasis on millennials and their families. Further, we intend to archive the quantitative survey data and the qualitative interview data in national data repositories to encourage their public use. As a long-term outcome, the project will provide a nuanced view of growing secularism across generations by considering spirituality and prosocial values among millennials, thereby providing a corrective to the pessimistic view of today’s young adults as religious “dropĀ­ outs”.