The National Congregations Study (NCS) dataset "fills a void in the sociological study of congregations by providing, for the first time, data that can be used to draw a nationally aggregate picture of congregations" (Chaves et al. 1999, p.460). Thanks to innovations in sampling techniques, the NCS data is the first nationally representative sample of American congregations. In 2006-07, a panel component was added to the NCS. In addition to the new cross-section of congregations generated in conjunction with the 2006 General Social Survey (GSS), a stratified random sample was drawn from congregations who participated in the 1998 NCS. The 2006-07 NCS sample, then, includes a subset of cases that were also interviewed in 1998. The 2012 NCS includes an oversample of Hispanic congregations.
The NCS Panel Dataset is also available from the ARDA.
- Data File
- Cases: 4,071
Weight Variable: WTA3CNGI, WTA3CNGD, WTA3ATT, WTW2CNGI, WTW2CNGD, WTW2ATT, WTP12CI, WTP12ATT, WTW3NHCI, WTW3NHCD, WTW3NHAT, WTW3HCI, WTW3HCD, and WTW3HAT
- In general, analysts will weight the data by WTA3CNGD when examining the data from the average congregation's perspective and by WTA3ATT when examining the data from the average attendee's perspective. For more information on weights, see the full codebook.
- Data Collection
- Date Collected: 1998, 2006-2007, and 2012
- Original Survey (Instrument)
- Full Codebook
- Funded By
- The National Congregations Study (NCS) was made possible by major grants from Lilly Endowment, Inc. The 1998 NCS also was supported by grants from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Inc., Louisville Institute, Nonprofit Sector Research Fund of the Aspen Institute, and Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. The 2006–07 NCS also was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, and Louisville Institute. The 2012 NCS also was supported by grants from the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project, Louisville Institute, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI, Rand Corporation, and Church Music Institute. The 2012 NCS also received generous support from Duke University and from the National Science Foundation via NSF support of the General Social Survey.
- Collection Procedures
- The GSS is a face-to-face interview conducted by experienced and well-trained interviewers; in 1998, 2006-2007, and 2012, interviewers were instructed to glean from respondents as much locational information about their congregations as possible. The 1998 and 2012 NCS data were collected by the same interviewers who collected data from GSS respondents; in 2006-2007, some of the data were also collected by phone-bank interviewers.
NCS Wave I
Once the congregational sample was generated, nominated congregations were located, and the NCS gathered congregational data using a 45-60 minute interview with one key informant--a minister, priest, rabbi, or other staff person or leader--from each nominated congregation. Three-quarters of NCS interviews were with clergy, 83 percent were with staff of some sort, and the remaining 17 percent were with non-staff congregational leaders. Every effort was made to conduct these interviews by telephone, but we followed-up with face-to-face visits if telephone contact was difficult. Ninety-two percent of the interviews were completed by phone. The NCS-I response rate was 80 percent. Complete data were collected from 1,234 congregations.
NCS Wave II
As in 1998, data were gathered via a 45-60 minute interview with one key informant, usually a clergyperson, from each congregation. Seventy-eight percent of NCS interviews were with clergy, 86 percent were with staff of some sort, and the remaining 14 percent were with non-staff congregational leaders. We attempted to conduct these interviews by telephone, but we visited congregations and conducted in-person interviews if necessary. Our efforts to persuade congregations to participate were greatly helped by endorsements from 19 individuals in 11 denominations. The NCS-II response rate was 78 percent. Complete data were collected from 1,506 congregations.
NCS Wave III
As in previous waves, data were gathered via a 50-minute interview with one key informant, usually a clergyperson, from each congregation. Seventy-seven percent of interviews were with clergy, 93 percent were with staff of some sort, and the remaining 7 percent were with non-staff congregational leaders. We attempted to conduct these interviews by telephone, but we visited congregations and conducted in-person interviews if necessary. For the first time in 2012, the NCS used computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), meaning that the questionnaire was transformed into a computer program that was installed on interviewers’ laptop computers. Complete data were collected from 1,331 congregations.
The NCS-III cooperation rate – the percentage of contacted congregations who agreed to participate – was 87 percent. The overall response rate is between 73 and 78 percent. A range is reported because the exact response rate depends on assumptions about the congregations associated with GSS respondents who declined to nominate a congregation after stating that they attended more than once a year. Based on these GSS respondents’ answers to the religious service attendance question and also on post-survey debriefing with GSS interviewers, the vast majority of these non-nominating GSS respondents may not have named a congregation simply because they did not really attend often enough or in a meaningful enough way to be able to name a congregation. If these non-nominated congregations are not counted against the NCS-III response rate, the NCS-III response rate is 78 percent. If the non-nominations are indeed valid congregations, the response rate is 73 percent.
Two distinctive features of the NCS-III sample should be emphasized. The first is related to the fact that the 2012 GSS contained a panel component. Specifically, the 2012 GSS contained three distinct samples: a new 2012 cross-section of individuals, a re-interview of respondents to the 2010 GSS, and a second re-interview of respondents to the 2008 GSS. In addition, funding from the Pew Center’s Religion and Public Life Project supported generating an oversample of congregations attended by self-identified Hispanics. Even with this Hispanic oversample, only 17 (1.3%) interviews were conducted in Spanish.
- Sampling Procedures
- The NCS was conducted in conjunction with the General Social Survey (GSS)--an in-person interview with a representative sample of noninstitutionalized English- or Spanish-speaking adults in the United States, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. In 1998, 2006-2007, and 2012, the GSS asked respondents who said they attend religious services at least once a year to report the name and location of their religious congregation. The congregations named by these respondents constitute the 1998, 2006-07, and 2012 NCS congregational samples. In 2006-07, a panel component was added to the NCS. In addition to the new cross-section of congregations generated in conjunction with the 2006 GSS, a stratified random sample was drawn from congregations that participated in the 1998 NCS. The 2006-07 NCS sample, then, includes a subset of cases that were also interviewed in 1998.
- Principal Investigators
- Mark Chaves
- Related Publications
- Chaves, Mark, Mary Ellen Konieczny, Kraig Beyerlein, and Emily Barman. 1999. "The National Congregations Study: Background, Methods, and Selected Results." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(4): 458-476.
Chaves, Mark. 2004. Congregations in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Chaves, Mark and Shawna L. Anderson. 2008. "Continuity and Change in American Congregations: Introducing the Second Wave of the National Congregations Study." Sociology of Religion 69:415-440.
Chaves, Mark. 2011. American Religion: Contemporary Trends. Princton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Chaves, Mark, and Shawna Anderson. 2014. "Changing American Congregations: Findings from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming.
- Note about Version 2
- The NCS Cumulative Dataset Version 2 contains updates to the following variables:
income (1998, 2006, and 2012)
incind (1998, 2006, and 2012)
spend (1998, 2006, and 2012)
spndden2 (2006 and 2012)
endowamt (2006 and 2012)
Fixes are based on consultation of original data and consist mainly of recoding to reset decimal points.
We provide SPSS and Stata syntax so that users of the NCS Cumulative Dataset Version 1 can update their datasets.
- Manuscripts using this data file or codebook should contain the following citation:
Chaves, Mark, Shawna L. Anderson, and Alison Eagle. 2014. National Congregations Study. Cumulative data file and codebook. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University, Department of Sociology.
- Codebook Addendum: Equivalent Variable Names
- A number of variable names in the NCS data set were modified as part of the ARDA’s data processing, and we provide here a list of the equivalent variable names. Any researchers working with statistical code and/or data sets with the original NCS variable names may need to adjust their code accordingly when using the data files available from the ARDA.