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The New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study: A Focus on Religion

Panel Chair: John Shaver | Tuesday, August 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

New Zealand is a relatively small Western nation of 4.3 million people. This symposium showcases recent findings from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS). The NZAVS is a 20-year longitudinal national probability study of social attitudes, personality and health outcomes. The NZAVS is led by Dr Chris Sibley, and is unique to New Zealand. The NZAVS has now been running for five years, and we have retained over 4000 people over this time period. The talks in this symposium cover various aspects of the NZAVS, including a talk about what the study is and lessons learned for conducting (or at least starting) a longitudinal panel study, as well as examples showcasing different methods of analysis and research questions that can be uniquely answered using complex multilevel and longitudinal national samples.

Chris Sibley

What is the NZAVS?

This talk introduces the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS), describes the decisions made in developing the study, how the sample frames were collected, how the survey was administered, procedures for retaining people, how we select or take suggestions for instruments, the multilevel structure of the data and how we link it to area unit information provided by the NZ census, how we organize and provide access to our dataset, opportunities for collaboration, and perhaps most importantly, how we do all this on a fairly tight budget. The NZAVS has retained more than 4000 people over five years, has attracted considerable interest from various government departments and council research units, and generated more than 60 published papers. The purpose of the talk is to provide an overview of what the NZAVS is, and to offer suggestions and ‘lessons learned’ for how to conduct similar longitudinal studies in other nations.

Geoff Troughton

What is the Future of New Zealand Churches? Evidence from a National Longitudinal Survey

This talk considers the future of New Zealand churches, based on analysis of survey responses drawn from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS). Our analysis focuses on the relationship between religious identification and age, and highlights varied patterns within different religious groupings. We describe three important findings, and discuss their implications for the future of New Zealand churches: 1) NZ Roman Catholic show remarkably strength in the younger and older age groups, with weaknesses in middle adulthood; (2) a similar “age gap” is observed for mainline protestant identification where religious identification is, however, weaker than among Catholics; (3) Christians who do not identify with a tradition (Christian NFDs) show the strongest religious identification of any category, and there is no “age gap” among Christians NFDs. This later result is surprising because it is unclear where Christian NFDs are deriving their strong religious identifications.

John Shaver

The Fitness Costs and Benefits of Ritual Behavior: The Alloparental Signaling Model

Substantial empirical work has demonstrated that costs paid in ritual return high levels of cooperation as measured in economic games; however, research to date has failed to demonstrate how ritual behavior directly impacts fitness. Here we propose The Alloparenting Signaling model and suggest that because ritual behavior embeds people in highly cooperative communities, religious children receive more alloparenting than secular children, and thus religious people can achieve higher fertility than secular people. Using data from the NZAVS, we show that 1) religious New Zealanders have higher fertility, 2) these fertility effects are in addition to standard ecological life history determinants, 3) ritual behavior is negatively correlated with hours spent engaging in childcare, and 4) non-reproductive religious people invest more in children than their non-reproductive secular counterparts. These findings suggest that religion in New Zealand may be part of a cooperative breeding strategy that results in a high number of offspring.

Joseph Bulbulia

What is the Dollar Value of Religious Charity?

Charity counts among the defining features of humanity, yet its psychological underpinnings remain unclear. We investigate the relationship between Charity and Religious Identification in a large and diverse sample of New Zealanders (n=6518). In contrast to previous research, our study rigorously controls for a host of demographic variables and for social desirability biases. We find that high levels of religious identification are associated with four times financial charity of low or zero religious identification. Highly religiously identified people are also twice as likely to volunteer. We then assess the practical economic impact of high religious identification by converting the charitable tendencies of religious people into dollar values, and estimate economic losses resulting from secularization.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)