Improving and Validating Survey Estimates of Religious Demography Using Bayesian Multilevel Models and Poststratification

Sociological Methods & Research

41 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2017 Last revised: 17 Jun 2018

See all articles by Christopher Claassen

Christopher Claassen

University of Glasgow

Richard Traunmüller

University of Mannheim - School of Social Sciences

Date Written: December 8, 2017

Abstract

Religious group size, demographic composition, and the dynamics thereof are of interest in many areas of social science, including migration, social cohesion, parties and voting, and violent conflict. Existing estimates however are of varying and perhaps poor quality because many countries do not collect official data on religious identity. We propose a method for accurately measuring religious group demographics using existing survey data: Bayesian multilevel regression models with post-stratification, or MRP. We illustrate this method by estimating the demography of Muslims, Hindus, and Jews in Great Britain over a 20-year period, and validate it by comparing our estimates to UK census data on religious demography. Our estimates are very accurate, differing from true population proportions by as little as 0.29 (Muslim) to 0.04 (Jewish) percentage points. These findings have implications for the measurement of religious demography as well as small group attributes more generally.

Keywords: Religion, Europe, demography, survey methods, multilevel regression with post-stratification (MRP), Bayesian methods

Suggested Citation

Claassen, Christopher and Traunmüller, Richard, Improving and Validating Survey Estimates of Religious Demography Using Bayesian Multilevel Models and Poststratification (December 8, 2017). Sociological Methods & Research, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2909796 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2909796

Christopher Claassen (Contact Author)

University of Glasgow ( email )

School of Social and Political Sciences
Glasgow, G12 8QQ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://chrisclaassen.com

Richard Traunmüller

University of Mannheim - School of Social Sciences ( email )

Germany

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