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Title: Integrating genetic data to examine the link between religious attendance and demographic behaviors in the United States
Authors: Qi, Jinyuan
Advisors: Conley, Dalton
Contributors: Population Studies Department
Subjects: Demography
Behavioral sciences
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The connections between religious attendance and various human behaviors have long fascinated social scientists. Recent genomics and statistical genetics advances in the US, where over 60% of the population maintains religious affiliation, have made it possible to explore the genetic underpinnings of religious attendance and its links to demographic behaviors. This dissertation consists of three chapters that delve into the complexities of religious attendance and human behaviors, highlighting the value of integrating genetic data. In the first chapter, we examine the shared genetic architecture between religious attendance and diverse demographic traits using genome-wide association studies (GWAS) summary statistics and innovative statistical tools such as Genomic SEM and GWAS-by-subtraction. We create polygenic indices (PGI) for religious attendance in three American longitudinal surveys, uncovering a small yet significant PGI impact on religious attendance. Our findings indicate a negative genetic association between religious attendance and high-risk health behaviors, as well as a positive correlation with improved physical and mental health. Further, our Genomic SEM analysis reveals that religious attendance has a positive genetic effect on the number of children, mediated by education and less risky sexual behavior. This chapter highlights the unique nature of religious attendance in comparison to other forms of social interaction and suggests a potential molecular link between religious attendance and health through cell immunity. Chapter 2 investigates religious assortative mating and differential fertility among older US adults. Despite declining religious attendance and increasing interfaith marriages, we observe a consistent positive phenotypic correlation among spousal pairs but limited evidence of significant religious assortative mating at the genotypic level. We find that the association between religious attendance and fertility is mediated by education, but no direct genetic effect of religious attendance on fertility is evident. In Chapter 3, we explore gene-environment interactions with respect to adverse life events, religious attendance, and depressive symptoms. Our research reveals that individuals with varying genetic predispositions to religious attendance respond differently to external stressors. High religiosity PGI and more frequent religious attendance serve as protective factors against depression. Collectively, these chapters offer novel insights into the intricate genetic and phenotypic relationships between religious attendance and demographic behaviors, emphasizing the importance of disentangling the genetic and environmental factors shaping these associations.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Population Studies

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