The Mission of CRSI

The Cardus Religious Schools Initiative (CRSI) seeks to generate new theoretical and empirical tools for understanding religious schools. CRSI conducts research which aims to appreciate the uniqueness of religious schools' mission and organization, to reveal the extent that religious schools improve outcomes for students, families, churches, and communities, and to show the links between school mission and organization and student and family outcomes.

Read more

Latest Research Evaluations

Religiosity and the Impact of Religious Secondary Schooling

Several studies have established that religious education, particularly Catholic education, provides young people with a slight boost to academic outcomes like school performance and college attendance. Little has been said, however, about how religious school attendance influences religious participation later in life. To fill this gap in religious school scholarship, Wadsworth and Walker use longitudinal data about public and religious school graduates to track how religious school attendance affects church attendance and volunteerism throughout young adulthood. They find that graduates of religious schools do exhibit a higher rate of religious participation two years after finishing high school as compared to their public school peers, but eight years after graduation this effect weakens and becomes more irregular.

Read More

The Catholic School Advantage in a Changing Social Landscape: Consistency or Increasing Fragility?

As the debate surrounding how best to deal with educational inequality in the United States continues, policy makers have turned to school choice as a possible solution for dealing with persistent disparities in student outcomes. Catholic schools, in particular, have been found to produce students with generally higher educational outcomes, but there is debate as to whether or not this effect is due to the practices of the schools themselves, or rather simply a product of the selection of a certain type of student into Catholic schools. With this debate in mind, Freeman and Berends use longitudinal survey data to examine how school sector influences students’ college-going behavior. They find that Catholic school graduates are more likely than their public school-educated peers to enroll in college, but the two groups do not differ significantly in terms of the type of institution they choose to attend. The paper also includes an examination of how the benefits of Catholic school attendance have changed over time, finding that shifting demographics in the United States and changes in the Catholic church have led to a decrease in the magnitude of the Catholic school advantage since the 1980s.

Read More

Canadian Islamic Schools: Unraveling the Politics of Faith, Gender, Knowledge, and Identity

Jasmin Zine’s Canadian Islamic Schools examines the non-academic outcomes of Islamic schooling on Muslim youth. Although Islamic schools have become much more common in Canada as the Muslim population of that country has increased over time, these schools remain under-researched and are typically stereotyped either as hotbeds of terrorist activity or as a way for Muslim immigrants to avoid assimilation into Canadian culture. Using qualitative data collected over a year and a half at four Canadian Islamic schools, Zine works to dispel these stereotypes by providing a clear, multifaceted picture of the role Islamic schools play in both the Muslim community and the lives of the individuals connected with them. This book details the functions Islamic schools fulfill in Islamic society, the construction of gender identities and ideologies in Islamic schools, and what Zine refers to as the “Islamization of knowledge,” all while situating Islamic schools within the larger context of Canadian society and the Muslim diaspora.

Read More

Preparing for Public Life: School Sector and the Educational Context of Lasting Citizen Formation

Do private schools have a lasting influence on civic participation as graduates age into young adulthood, and if so, what explains this effect? Building on previous literature that describes how essential education is to socialization, Jeffrey Dill uses the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS) to observe differences between graduates of different types of schools on civic participation, and finds several factors that mediate this outcome.

Read More

Why Worry about Evolution? Boundaries, Practices, and Moral Salience in Sunni and Evangelical High Schools

The inclusion of evolution in school curricula has been a major issue in American education for almost a century. But why has this issue in particular created such a stark divide between different factions in the United States, particularly between Evangelical Protestants and the rest of the country? In this study, Jeffrey Guhin argues that this divide is created by key boundaries and practices that exist in Evangelical Protestantism which do not exist in other segments of the population, even among other religiously conservative groups. Using ethnographic data gathered through several months of fieldwork at both conservative Protestant schools and Sunni Muslim schools in the New York City area, Guhin’s paper explores how religious communities create different boundaries based on the beliefs and practices they regard as most morally salient. More broadly, Guhin uses the issue of teaching evolution to examine the larger question of why some issues are more morally salient than others in religious communities.

Read More

Higher Education as Moral Community: Institutional Influences on Religious Participation During College

Research on the religiosity of college students and graduates has produced differing views on how college attendance affects student religiosity. Some studies find that attending college has a unilaterally secularizing effect on students, but more recent research has found that students actually become more religious during college. Jonathan Hill adds to this work by examining how institutional-level influences determine a student’s religious participation both during and after college. Using longitudinal data to study the impact of college attendance on religious service attendance over an individual’s lifetime, Hill finds that “college campuses do not engender any long-term secularization at the individual level” (529), and that the short-term and long-term effects of institutional influences vary somewhat by type of institution. 

Read More

Private Schools for the Public Good

Download the recently released 2016 Cardus Education Survey Report. The Cardus Education Survey is now considered the most significant representative benchmark of non-public school academic, cultural, and spiritual outcomes.


David Sikkink, director of the Cardus Religious Schools Initiative, has been named a Cardus Senior Fellow. Cardus Senior Fellows comprise a network of recognized experts in a wide range of disciplines, bringing specialized expertise and capacity to Cardus research projects and events. Cardus provides an institutional framework within which they can write about and speak on key topics within their specialties. 

Recent CRSI Reports

Blinded by Religion? Religious School Graduates and Perceptions of Science in Young Adulthood

Jonathan Schwarz and David Sikkink examine if religious school attendance has a direct, independent effect on adults' orientation toward science. 

Read the CRSI report.

The Lasting Impact of High School on Giving and Volunteering in the U.S.

Jonathan Schwarz and David Sikkink investigate if high schools in the United States foster behavior, attitudes, and identities that support volunteering and giving among their graduates. 

Read the CRSI report. 

Be True to Your School, Parents in North America Say: Intergenerational Continuity in School Sector Enrollment

Jonathan Schwarz and David Sikkink assess the schooling choices of North American parents in the early years of their children's lives.

Read the CRSI report. 

Religious Schools, Gender Roles, and College Choices

Julie Dallavis investigates whether religious high schools are associated with gender differences in earning a bachelor's degree and choosing a college major.

Read the CRSI report. 

Homeschooling and Young Adult Outcomes: Evidence from the 2011 and 2014 Cardus Education Survey

David Sikkink and Sara Skiles report on young adult outcomes of students who have been homeschooled using data from the Cardus Education Survey of 2011 and 2014.

Read the CRSI report. 

Variations in School Sector Advantages: Degrees, Earnings, and College Majors

Sara Skiles and David Sikkink examine religious school sector outcomes of college degree, field of postsecondary study, and income using data from the National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR).

Read the CRSI report. 

Religion and Reading in Early Childhood

David Sikkink and Sara Skiles investigate the relationship between religious school attendance and reading outcomes during the early elementary school years.

Read the CRSI report