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National Congregations Study, 1998 and 2006 [Cumulative File] (ICPSR 3471)

Principal Investigator(s):


The current cumulative National Congregations Survey (NCS) includes Wave I and Wave II data. Wave I consists of interviews conducted in 1998, and Wave II consists of interviews conducted in 2006-07, including a panel component comprising re-interviews of a sample of congregations who participated in Wave I. The NCS elicited from respondents a description of their religious congregation, including its membership, the content of its worship service, and its other activities. NCS sample congregations were selected using hypernetwork sampling: respondents of the 1998 and 2006 General Social Survey (GSS) who said that they attended religious services at least once a year were asked to report the name and location of their congregation, as well as an informed contact person. These congregations comprised the sample for the current study. Interviews with congregational informants took place via telephone or in person if necessary, and most of the informants were clergy. Respondents were asked to describe their position, the year the congregation had been founded, when it began worshipping in its current location, and whether it was formally affiliated with a denomination or a local association of congregations. Informants also described the type of building in which the congregation met, whether it belonged to the congregation, and whether visitors came just to view the building's architecture or artwork. Respondents were asked for the number of members, participating nonmembers and full- and part-time staff, how many participated regularly, the number of worship services, and the demographic characteristics of members and the congregation's head or senior leader. They also described the worship service, including it's length, languages used, attendance, whether the congregation sang, engaged in silent prayer or meditation, applauded, used incense in the services, or worshipped jointly with another congregation, among other activities. Informants listed and described programs sponsored by the congregation other than the main worship services, including religious education classes, musical groups, groups meeting around social justice, neighborhood, or community issues, vacation or summer religious schools, and groups to help people with substance abuse problems. Informants indicated whether meetings for purposes such as discussing people's problems or concerns at work, praying or meditating, discussing race relations, or taking an overnight trip had occurred in the past 12 months. Respondents also described the congregation's participation in social service, community development, or neighborhood organizing projects such as disaster relief programs, programs for victims of rape or domestic violence, cleaning highways or parks, programs focused on physical health needs, and recreational programs. Information was given in regards to the congregation's budget, the source of its funding, and recipients of the congregation's funds. In addition, informants were asked to describe the congregation's political and theological leanings from "more on the conservative side" to "more on the liberal side," and whether the congregation had rules or norms governing certain behaviors. Finally, nearly all congregations were placed within a census tract, enabling the inclusion of selected census variables in the data file.

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DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  Cumulative (1998 and 2006-07) Cross-Sectional Data File - Download All Files (34.5 MB)
DS2:  Panel (2006-07) Data File - Download All Files (12 MB)

Study Description


Chaves, Mark A. National Congregations Study, 1998 and 2006 [Cumulative File]. ICPSR03471-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-11-17. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03471.v2

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This study was funded by:

  • Lilly Endowment, Inc. (#1997-1429-000, #2006-1675-000)
  • Smith Richardson Foundation (#9801-020)
  • Louisville Institute (#97-0074, #2005105)
  • Aspen Institute (#98-1-NSRF-01D)
  • Henry Luce Foundation
  • National Science Foundation (#0452269)
  • W. K. Kellogg Foundation (#P0118042)
  • University of Arizona

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   abortion, advocacy, African Americans, AIDS, altruism, anti-abortion movement, associations, budgets, Catholics, census tract level, charitable donations, Christianity, church attendance, church buildings, church groups, church membership, clergy, community involvement, community participation, demographic characteristics, ethnic groups, euthanasia, expenditures, financial support, gender roles, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, leadership, memberships, mosques, nonprofit organizations, outreach programs, political ideologies, Protestants, religion, religious affiliation, religious behavior, religious beliefs, religious congregations, religious denominations, social activism, social behavior, social conflict, social issues, social support, volunteers, worship, young adults, youths

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1998
  • 2006

Universe:   United States religious congregations.

Data Types:   survey data

Data Collection Notes:

In Wave II 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 of congregations who participated in NCS Wave I was drawn.

Several sets of Wave I open-ended responses for social service programs, congregational groups, and other items were recoded by the data producer to ensure comparability between Wave I and Wave II.

NCS Wave II data collection differed from NCS Wave I data collection in that the NCS Wave II questionnaire was translated into Spanish and eleven interviews were conducted in Spanish.

More summertime interviews were conducted in Wave II: 34 percent compared with 20 percent in Wave I. Analysts should ensure that differences between the two waves do not reflect a higher percentage of summer interviews in Wave II.

A different data collection strategy produced more in-person interviews in Wave II: 22.5 percent versus 7.5 percent in Wave I. In Wave I, all NCS cases were allocated immediately to field staff around the country who were relatively close to their assigned congregations. In Wave II, data collection began from phone banks in Chicago and Arizona.

There are two variables in the panel dataset that are not included in the cumulative cross-sectional dataset: PANEL_ID and PANEL_98.


Study Purpose:   The purpose of this study was to create a representative sample of religious congregations in the United States.

Sample:   A representative sample of United States congregations was collected using a hypernetwork sampling technique. Respondents to the 1998 and the 2006 General Social Survey (GSS) who said they attend religious services at least once a year were asked to name the congregation at which they attended religious services. The congregations nominated by these respondents comprise the NCS sample.

Weight:   Eight weights are included in the cumulative NCS data set and two weighting variables are contained in the panel data set. Please see Appendix A of the codebook for a description of weights.

Mode of Data Collection:   face-to-face interview, telephone interview

Response Rates:   Wave I (80 percent) Wave II (78 percent)

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2009-11-17 NCS Wave I data (1998) and Wave II data (2006-07) have been combined into the current version of the cumulative file. Also, a panel dataset was added, and several sets of Wave I open-ended responses for social service programs, congregational groups, and other items were recoded by the data producer to ensure comparability between Wave I and Wave II.

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