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National Study of Youth and Religion, Wave 4 (2013)




Smith, C. (2021, March 9). National Study of Youth and Religion, Wave 4 (2013).


The fourth wave of the NSYR survey was designed to gather a final round of data on respondents, aged 23 - 28 at the time of survey fielding, which took place between February 2013 and December 2013. Every attempt was made to include as many Wave 1 participants as possible, including those who had not participated in Wave 2 and/or 3. For the first time in Wave 4, data were collected using both an online survey (for 85 percent of respondents) and a phone survey (for the balance). Participants were randomly sorted into the online and phone groups for purposes of methods comparison, and once survey fielding began, there was some movement between groups to accommodate respondents who either couldn't or wouldn't take the survey online, or who would only agree to participate in the survey if it was online. The survey instrument was programmed using the Qualtrics survey software of the Qualtrics Research Suite. Online survey respondents were sent a personalized link to the survey and completed the survey independently. Phone surveyors called phone survey respondents at a pre-arranged appointment time, and used the Qualtrics software to conduct the survey. Quite a few of the questions on the Wave 4 survey replicated questions from previous waves, and additional questions were added to capture relevant information about respondents' young adult lives.

The ARDA has added four additional variables to the original data set to enhance the users' experience on our site.

Data File

Cases: 2144
Variables: 1062
Weight Variable: RWEIGHT, PWEIGHT

A panel weight, PWEIGHT (pweight_w4) is included for use when analyzing data from Wave 4 with one or more previous waves of the NSYR survey data (excluding data from the Jewish oversample). To develop this weight, a simple correction factor was applied within each region-income stratum (defined by the four census regions and five income levels at Wave 1) to adjust the weight for each individual. This accounts for the change in the distribution of the respondents of the NSYR by census regions and income groups resulting from Wave 4 sample attrition. The longitudinal weight, RWEIGHT (rweight_w4) is included for analysis involving all four waves of data. It is similar to the panel weight, except that it makes the correction based on the individuals that participated in all four waves (therefore, there is missing data on this variable for respondents who did not participate in one or both of Waves 2 and 3). We recommend the use of raw weights when using software developed for analysis of survey data, such as Stata or SAS, especially when using commands designed for survey analysis, such as "svymean" or "svyregress" in Stata. The only exception to this is when software documentation specifically requests that users normalize the weights before estimation. It is the user's responsibility to determine whether raw or normalized weights should be used in an analysis.

Data Collection

Survey data were collected between Feb. 14, 2013 and Dec. 5, 2013.

Original Survey (Instrument)

National Study of Youth and Religion, Wave 4

Funded By

The Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Collection Procedures

In previous waves, all surveys were conducted over the phone. In Wave 4, 85 percent of respondents were sent a link to an online survey, and completed the survey independently, and the balance responded to the survey over the phone. Online respondents read and agreed to the study's informed consent statement online, while phone respondents gave verbal consent before answering any survey questions. Identity was confirmed using name and date of birth.

Sampling Procedures

A RDD telephone survey sampling method was chosen for this study because of the advantages it offers compared to alternative survey sampling methods. Unlike school-based sampling, for example, our RDD telephone method was able to survey not only school-attending youth, but also school dropouts, home-schooled youth, and students frequently absent from school. Using RDD, we were also able to ask numerous religion questions which many school principals and school boards often disallow on surveys administered in school.

For more information, see

Principal Investigators

Dr. Christian Smith
Department of Sociology
University of Notre Dame

Related Publications

Smith, Christian and Melinda Lundquist Denton. 2003. "Methodological Design and Procedures for the National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR)." Chapel Hill, NC: The National Study of Youth and Religion.

Smith, Christian and Melinda Lundquist Denton. 2005. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Smith, Christian. 2009. Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

See for a list of publications.


All publications using NSYR data must contain the following acknowledgement:

"The National Study of Youth and Religion,, whose data were used by permission here, was generously funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., under the direction of Christian Smith, of the Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame."

Retention and Response Rates

Of the 3,370 survey respondents in Wave 1, 62 were removed in subsequent waves after it was discovered that they did not belong in the sample because of age, 23 have died since Wave 1, and 18 were incarcerated, deployed and without contact, or receiving in-patient medical treatment during the fielding of Wave 4, leaving 3,267 potential respondents for Wave 4. The Wave 4 N of 2,144 therefore represents a 66 percent response rate from Wave 1. The Wave 3 - Wave 4 retention rate (that is, respondents who participated in both Waves 3 & 4) was 75 percent (1908 of Wave 4 participants were part of the Wave 3 sample, which had 2,532 participants). The "all wave" retention rate - the number of the still eligible 3,267 respondents from Wave 1 who participated in all three subsequent waves - was 53 percent (1,744 were in all three waves).

The Wave 4 refusal rate (the percentage of the 3,267 eligible participants who gave verbal or written notice of their refusal to participate in Wave 4) was 1.3 percent. However, the actual refusal rate was probably quite a bit higher. NSYR project staff were able to contact 485 participants who did not complete the survey after dozens of requests and attempts to re-contact, but also didn't refuse to participate outright. A significant portion of these were likely signaling tacit refusal to participate via their failure to complete the survey. Despite project staff's best efforts, we were unable to contact 596 of the 3,285 potentially eligible participants (including those deployed or otherwise institutionalized), resulting in a Wave 4 contact rate of 82 percent.

Missing Data

The standard "." indicator of missing data was used to indicate that a respondent skipped a question. The code -99 is used to indicate questions that respondents did not receive because of skip pattern programming (intentional skips). In a few cases, the value of -98 has been assigned to indicate an invalid skip due to computer or programming errors.

Religion Variables

The religion questions in the NSYR survey are complex. We have created interpretable religion variables to be used in analysis following the conventions for "RELTRAD" coding laid out in Steensland et al 2000 (Social Forces 79:291-318). For consistency across analyses, we ask that all analysts use the standard integrated religion variables created by NSYR as the starting point for their analyses. These variables are described below:
RELIG1 (relig1_w4) is the religious identification variable. This variable indicates what the respondent considers him/herself to be regardless of attendance.

RELATT (relatt_w4) is the pure attendance variable in that it is coded using only the attendance variable (churtype_w4). We only consider first named attendance. The "Indeterminate" group on this variable includes anyone who said they attended (in attend1_w4) and were "Christian/Just Christian" (in churtype_w4). To see which categories on churtype_w4 have been grouped into which of the 12 relatt_w4 categories, run the following syntax in Stata for each relatt category: tab churtype_w4 if relatt==1.

TRADREL (tradrel_w4) is the variable categorizing respondents into major religious types. It is the combination of RELIG1 (relig1_w4) and RELATT (relatt_w4), but it always prioritizes attendance. So in essence this variable starts as an exact replication of RELATT (relatt_w4), but then uses RELIG1 (relig1_w4) to classify all those who could not be classified based on attendance (i.e., Just Christians, non-attenders and indeterminate). (TRADREL (tradrel_w4) is similar to RELAFF (relaff_w2) in wave 2 (and therefore to the reltrad variable from wave 1)). First, all non-attenders (based on attreg_w4) who did not identify as belonging to any religious group (according to relaffil_w4) were coded as not religious on tradrel_w4. Next, relig1_w4, and if necessary, othchur_w4 and prprot1_w4 were used to classify non-attenders into tradrel groups.

Wave 4 Gender

Several questions on the Wave 4 survey had to be programmed using gender. Wave 1 gender was used for this programming, and is included in the Wave 4 data (gender_w4).

Wave 4 Age

In Wave 4 of the survey, respondents confirmed the date of birth they reported in previous waves. In a few cases, the Wave 4 date of birth was different than dates given in previous waves. In almost all cases, the date was off by one day or one year, likely the result of a keying error in a previous wave. During the Wave 4 respondent tracking process, it was discovered that 10 respondents were either too old or too young to be in the sample (in most cases because of inaccurate age reporting in Wave 1). These 10 cases have been removed from Wave 1, 2 & 3 data files stored on ARDA. For analysis of Wave 4 data, NSYR researchers advise that analysts use AGECATS (agecats_w4), the variable for the age corresponding to the birthdate the respondent gave in Wave 4.

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