Church Membership and Church Attendance across Time – A Trend Analysis Considering Differences between East and West Germany

Daniel Lois


On the basis of ALLBUS data this paper examines for the period under observation 1980-2008 how the probability of church membership and the frequency of churchgoing change depending on age, calendar time and birth cohort. In accordance with conventional secularisation theories, it is shown for Western and Eastern Germany that the share of individuals with a religious denomination in the periods 1980-2008 and 1991-2008 is continuing to fall. The general secularisation trend is however counteracted by positive age effects on the probability of church membership (in Western and Eastern Germany) and on the frequency of churchgoing (in Western Germany). A form of secularisation which has received little attention so far in this context lies in the fact that the positive age effect on church attendance among Western German persons weakens significantly with ongoing calendar time. In view of cohort effects, it is shown for Western Germany that in particular the 1946-1953 birth cohort, which was considerably influenced by the 68 movement, is typified by low levels of religious participation. A revitalisation of ties to churches is shown in the new Federal States in the cohorts from 1961 onwards, which were socialised during the dissolution of the GDR and after reunification.


Secularisation; Church membership; Church attendance; Trend analysis; APC analysis

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