Research Projects

Here at the Center we have a wide variety of current research investigating the sociology of religion. Below, we discuss our projects on the Science of Generosity, Christian education in the US and Canada, American youth and religion, congregations and immigration, marriage and divorce, American religion and ethnicity, critical realism and human personhood, Air Force chapels, humanitarian volunteerism, and multiple modenities.  Our new Undergraduate Fellows Program promotes unique opportunites for undergraduate scholarship in the social scientific study of religion. There is also an archive of past projects.

The University of Notre Dame request for proposals (RFP) initiative on the Science of Generosity, under the direction of Dr. Christian Smith, is supported with funding from the John Templeton Foundation. The aim of this initiative is to stimulate scientific research on the practice of generosity in human life and society. We are particularly interested in better understanding three key aspects of generosity: (1) The sources, origins, and causes of generosity, (2) the variety of manifestations and expressions of generosity, (3) the consequences of generosity for both the givers and receivers involved. The project defines generosity as the disposition and practice of freely giving of one's financial resources, time, and talents. Generosity thus includes, for example, charitable financial giving, volunteering, and the dedication of one's gifts for the welfare of others or the common good. Learn more at

The Cardus Education Survey (CES) is part of a larger research initiative at Cardus that seeks to answer important questions about Christian education in North America. The CES seeks a representative portrait of the state of Christian schools in North America today. To do so, it includes a survey of administrators, teachers, and alumni from about 350 schools—selected randomly to best represent all Catholic and Protestant schools—throughout the United States and Canada. The study will inform religious leaders and the public about the contributions of Christian education, including their influence on graduates of Christian high schools, especially in the areas of spiritual growth, religious involvement, family, education, occupation, and civic engagement. For more information about the project, please visit or contact the principal investigator, Dr. David Sikkink, at 574-631-2736 or by email.

The Project seeks to advance the social scientific study of Latino religion. It specifically seeks to understand the role of religion in civic and political life, its impact on educational aspirations and achievement among youth, the training of religious leaders, and the social service role of Latino congregations.Directed by Dr. Edwin I. Hernandez, the Project was previously known as the Center for the Study of Latino Religion, which over the last decade conducted research on Latino religious leadership, theological training, education, congregations, and political engagement (see for a list of publications). This work has been supported by generous grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Louisville Institute, Annie E. Casey, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.One of the major research efforts under way is dissemination of the findings from the Chicago Latino Congregations Study (CLCS), a multi-level comprehensive study of Latino congregations, clergy, lay leadership, and parishioners (adults and youth) (see for a description of the methodology).The researchers initially compiled a comprehensive population list of the religious universe of metropolitan Chicago Latino congregations defined as having 50 percent Latino participants for Protestant churches and 30 percent or more for Catholic parishes. The study is based on a stratified sample of 84 congregations representing Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, and Pentecostal traditions. In all, the CLCS includes congregational level and Latino religious leader data for 84 congregation as well as 2,368 adults from 74 of the congregations and 607 youth from 63 of the congregations.

The NSYR is a major, longitudinal, mixed-methods research project investigating the lives, particularly the religious faith and practice, of American youth. This project is currently funded through December 2015. The NSYR, generously supported by Lilly Endowment Inc. since August 2001, has collected three waves of survey and interview data and is collecting a fourth wave of data in 2013. The NSYR is headed by Dr. Christian Smith, Director of the Center for the Sociology of Religion at Notre Dame, and co-directed by Dr. Lisa Pearce, Assistant Professors of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Dr. Melinda Denton, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Clemson University. Learn more at

The Southern Arizona Congregations Study is a project led by Dr. Kraig Beyerlein which studies congregation-based mobilization efforts to provide humanitarian aid to migrants along the Sonora-Arizona border.

Dr. Mary Ellen Konieczny leads this project in interviewing pastors and parishioners regarding issues on marriage, divorce, domestic violence and religious faith and practice. This study proceeds with the understanding that marital conflict, divorce, and domestic violence affect congregants and congregations in numerous ways, and the study seeks to investigate exactly how this happens. The study researches these issues by interviewing pastors and congregants at diverse churches in a large Midwestern city, with a particular focus on Latino congregants from Spanish-speaking congregations. Interviews with congregants investigate a number of questions, namely: Why do most congregants avoid pastors in times of conflict? What makes them feel comfortable—or uncomfortable—talking to their pastor about marriage, divorce, conflict, and violence? How do congregants respond when conflict arises in their marriage? How does faith play a role in a congregant dealings with anger? How do congregants respond to hypothetical scenarios that feature potential or definite cases of domestic violence? Do Latinos hear about domestic violence at church more or less than non-Latinos?

The PS-ARE is an unprecedented, multi-level panel study focused on religion in the U.S., with a particular focus on capturing ethnic and racial diversity. The PS-ARE seeks to show the impact of religion in everyday life. It includes substantive modules on family relationships, deviance, health, civic participation and volunteering, moral and social attitudes, and race and ethnic issues. In time, this panel study is expected to develop into a multi-wave longitudinal study comprising both individual and congregational level data. The PS-ARE, which is directed by Dr. David Sikkink, generously funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., involves additional funding from the John Templeton Foundation, and is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Michael Emerson at Rice University. Learn more at

This collaborative project, led by Dr. Christian Smith, is exploring non-reductionistic accounts of the nature of the human person as they relate to the work of the social sciences. The project is gathering together interdisciplinary groups of scholars in sociology, psychology, political science, philosophy, theology, and law to discuss key questions toward developing new theoretical models of the nature of human personhood in ways that might improve theoretical and empirical work in the social sciences. 

This collaborative project is a historical and qualitative study of religion at the United State Air Force Academy. Led by Dr. Mary Ellen Konieczny and funded by the Louisville Institute and Notre Dame Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the principal objective of this project is to advance scholarly and practical knowledge of religion and the military through the historical, ethnographic, and quantitative study of the practice of religion at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This project explores how practices embodying tensions between disestablishment and free exercise have occurred, developed, and been received since the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel was established and built (1956-1963). The study will answer: How does religion contribute to the social identities of cadets, and how do congregational contexts support and shape these identities? How do cadets and their superiors understand the relation of religious beliefs and military service, and when and to what extent does this relation inform their behavior? How have religious affiliations, beliefs, and practices of officers, students, and chaplains changed over time? In what events and practices at the Academy have tensions between disestablishment and free exercise of religion crystallized over the last half-century? 

Dr. Kraig Beyerlein works with Notre Dame undergraduate students to participate in an alternative spring break trip along the Arizona-Mexico border.

This collaborative project, led by Dr. Christian Smith, is exploring and developing through working groups, seminars, and focused research projects the theoretical idea of multiple modernities—particularly, though not exclusively, as it relates to religious and moral life—around the world. Multiple modernities provides a theoretical and analytical framework for understanding cultural and institutional social change at the global, national, and sub-cultural levels that represents an alternative to both traditional modernization and secularization theories as well as to the theory of post-modernism.

The Undergraduate Fellows Program in the Center for the Study of Religion and Society is focused on mentoring undergraduate scholars in the social scientific study of religion. The Fellows will be equipped to explore the possibility of becoming academic scholars in a variety of disciplines and fields. Each Fellow will spend a year conducting their own funded research project of personal interest and writing a paper based on their findings, presented at a public forum at the end of the school year. Combined with this independent research Fellows will also be mentored by a faculty member. In addition to these goals, they will also participate in the Center’s events, attending meetings, lectures, and awards ceremonies. By the time the year-long Fellowship has been completed, Fellows will have had the opportunity to research a religion-related topic of personal interest in a supportive and resource-rich context, to participate in an intellectual community of scholars interested in religion and society, to learn more about what life as a religion-research academic scholar is like, and to prepare for possible application to top graduate programs that involve the study of religion. For more information, click here Fellows_call_for_application_2014.pdf


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