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National Congregations Study: Cumulative File, 1998, 2006-2007, 2012, 2018-2019, [United States] (ICPSR 3471)

Version Date: Aug 14, 2023 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Mark Chaves, Duke University

https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03471.v5

Version V5 ()

  • V5 [2023-08-14]
  • V4 [2022-05-23] unpublished
  • V3 [2015-05-06] unpublished
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The National Congregations Study (NCS) is an ongoing national survey effort to gather information about America's congregations. The first wave of the NCS took place in 1998, and the study was repeated in 2006-07, 2012, and 2018-19. The NCS tracks continuity and change among American congregations, and each NCS wave also explores new subjects.

With information from 5,333 congregations collected over a span of more than 20 years, the NCS helps us better understand many aspects of congregational life in the United States, and how congregations are changing in the 21st century. The NCS contributes to knowledge about American religion by collecting information about a wide range of congregations' characteristics and activities at different points in time.

In all four waves, the NCS was conducted in conjunction with the General Social Survey (GSS). The 1998, 2006, 2012, and 2018 waves of the GSS asked respondents who attend religious services to name their congregation, thus generating a nationally representative sample of religious congregations. Researchers then located these congregations. In 2006, the sample included re-interviews of a subset of congregations that participated in 1998, and in 2018-19, the sample included re-interviews of a subset of congregations that participated in 2012.

A key informant at each congregation - a minister, priest, rabbi, or other staff person or leader - provided each congregation's information via a one-hour interview conducted either over the phone or in-person. The survey gathered information on many topics, including the congregation's leadership, social composition, structure, activities, and programming. Congregations were geocoded, and selected census variables are included in the public data file.

Chaves, Mark. National Congregations Study: Cumulative File, 1998, 2006-2007, 2012, 2018-2019, [United States]. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2023-08-14. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03471.v5

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Lilly Endowment, Inc. (#1997-1429-000, #2006-1675-000, #2011 0974-000), Duke University, Smith Richardson Foundation (#9801-020), Louisville Institute (#97-0074, #2005105), Aspen Institute (#98-1-NSRF-01D), Henry Luce Foundation, National Science Foundation (#0452269 and support of the General Social Survey), W. K. Kellogg Foundation (#P0118042), University of Arizona, John Templeton Foundation, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, RAND Corporation, Church Music Institute, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

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This data collection may not be used for any purpose other than statistical reporting and analysis. Use of these data to learn the identity of any person or establishment is prohibited. To protect respondent privacy, the data files in this collection are restricted from general dissemination. To obtain these restricted files, researchers must agree to the terms and conditions of a Restricted Data Use Agreement.

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
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1998 (Spring and Summer), 2006 (Spring and Summer), 2012, 2018 -- 2019
1998, 2006, 2012, 2018 -- 2019
  1. 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.

  2. Verbatim responses are not included in the public dataset. 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 Waves I, II, and III. Researchers interested in working directly with the verbatim responses should contact the Principal Investigator to arrange access.

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

  4. 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. No information was provided regarding seasonality in Wave III.

  5. 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. Wave III returned to the Wave I strategy, producing 8.5 percent in-person interviews.

  6. Wave III included an oversample of congregations attended by self-identified Hispanics.

  7. The 2018-19 NCS gathered detailed staffing information that was used to conduct a follow-up survey of clergy who serve NCS-IV congregations. This follow-up survey is called the National Survey of Religious Leaders.

  8. For more information on the National Congregations Study: Cumulative File, 1998, 2006-2007, 2012, 2018-2019, [United States] study, please refer to the National Congregations Study Web site.

  9. For more information on the National Survey of Religious Leaders, United States, 2019-2020 study, please refer to https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/web/ICPSR/studies/38576.

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The purpose of this study was to create a representative sample of religious congregations in the United States, allowing researchers to conduct more rigorous analyses of congregation data.

NCS congregations were selected using hypernetwork sampling: respondents of the 1998, 2006, 2012, and 2018 General Social Surveys (GSS) who said that they attended religious services at least once a year were asked to report the name and location of their congregation. These congregations comprised the NCS samples. In 2006, the sample included re-interviews of a subset of congregations that participated in 1998, and in 2018-19, the sample included re-interviews of a subset of congregations that participated in 2012. The NCS samples are probability-proportional-to-size (PPS) samples. The public dataset contains weights that allow researchers to analyze the data either from the perspective of the average congregation (i.e., undoing the PPS nature of the sample) or from the perspective of the average religious service attendee (i.e., maintaining the PPS nature of the sample).

Longitudinal: Trend / Repeated Cross-section

United States religious congregations.

Congregation

Wave I - 80 percent; Wave II - 78 percent; Wave III - between 73 and 78 percent, depending on calculation method and assumptions; Wave IV - 69 percent.

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2002-10-02

2023-08-14 A restricted-use dataset containing location information that was provided by the producer has been added to the collection. Documentation provided by the producer has also been added.

2022-05-23 The cumulative file, dataset 1, has been updated by the producer to include the NCS Wave IV data (2018-19). Additionally, a new panel dataset for waves III (2012) and IV (2018-19) has been released. An updated codebook encompassing all four waves has also been provided by the data producer.

2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Chaves, Mark. National Congregations Study: Cumulative File, 1998, 2006-2007, 2012, 2018-2019, [United States]. ICPSR03471-v5. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2023-08-14. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03471.v5

2015-05-06 The cumulative file, dataset 1, has been updated by the producer to include the NCS Wave III data (2012). No additions or changes were made to the panel dataset during this update. However, the previously study-wide codebook has been divided into two dataset-specific codebooks. ICPSR also generated a new version of the Variable Description and Frequencies for the panel dataset codebook as well an R data file for the panel dataset.

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.

2002-10-02 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:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.
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The raw data are not weighted. For most purposes, analysts will want to weight the data by WT_ALL4_CONG_DUP when examining the data from the average congregation's perspective and by WT_ALL4_ATTENDEE when examining the data from the average attendee's perspective. The Wave I-II panel dataset contains two weighting variables: W7 and W8. The Wave III-IV panel dataset contains two weighting variables: WT_PANEL34_CONG_DUP and WT_PANEL34_ATTENDEE. These are analogous to WT_ALL4_CONG_DUP and WT_ALL4_ATTENDEE, respectively, in the cumulative cross-sectional dataset. The NCS weights are described in detail in the NCS codebook.

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Notes

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