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Portraits of American Life Study, 1st Wave, 2006




Emerson, M. O., & Sikkink, D. H. (2020, February 4). Portraits of American Life Study, 1st Wave, 2006.


The Portraits of American Life Study (PALS) is an unprecedented, multi-level panel study focused on religion in the United States, with a particular focus on capturing ethnic and racial diversity. The PALS seeks to show the impact of religion in everyday life, and ultimately the connections between religious change and other forms of change in individuals and families over the course of their lives and across generations. It includes substantive modules on family relationships, deviance, health, civic participation and volunteering, moral and social attitudes, and race and ethnic issues. In time, this panel study is expected to develop into a multi-wave longitudinal study comprising both individual and congregational level data. This study was formerly known as the Panel Study of American Religion and Ethnicity (PS-ARE).

The ARDA has added seven additional variables to the original data set to enhance the users' experience on our site.

Data File

Cases: 2610
Variables: 666
Weight Variable: PAWT2

Data Collection

April to October, 2006

Funded By

The Lilly Endowment Inc.
University of Notre Dame
Rice University

Collection Procedures

Face-to-face interviews were conducted under the direction of RTI International.

Sampling Procedures

The target population for this study is defined as the civilian, non-institutionalized population of the United States who are 18 years of age or older at the time of the survey. RTI International Inc.'s statisticians conducted a five stage sampling procedure to determine the address selected as a representative sample (including the oversampling of racial/ethnic minorities). The PALS deviates from the common random sampling procedure whereby households are selected through a process of counting and listing each housing unit with certain geographical areas. Conversely, RTI statisticians purchased lists of residential addresses to select randomly addresses across the United States. Using the 2000 Census data cross-referenced with zip codes, the statisticians selected 60 primary sampling units (PSUs) to represent the diversity of the US population. From this sample of 60 3-digit US zip codes just over 120 5-digit zip codes were selected (approximately two per 3-digit zip). Two hundred and forty-eight postal carrier routes were then selected from among the selected 5-digit zip codes. An average of 41 addresses per carrier route were selected, resulting in approximately 10,320 selected addresses nationwide. The study aimed to complete 2,600 interviews with participants, oversampling Asian, Hispanics, and African Americans. The final totals: 2610 completed interviews, including 190 Asians, 520 Hispanics, 528 African Americans, 1263 Whites, and 109 Other participants.

Advance letters were mailed to all households selected for contact four or five days before their initial visit to a sample household. Interviewers visited sample households and completed a screening interview. The screening was conducted using a paper-and-pencil instrument (PAPI). If a respondent was selected from the household and agreed to participate, a questionnaire was administered using a laptop computer. Respondents were paid an incentive of $50 to complete the interview, which took an average of 75 minutes. The response rate for the survey was 50%, and the cooperation rate (those reached who agreed to the interview) was 71%.

In addition to the primary questionnaire, other PAPI instruments were left behind or mailed to household members at a later date to complete and return on their own. A $15 incentive check was mailed to all "partners" who returned a completed questionnaire.

Principal Investigators

Michael O. Emerson, Rice University
David H. Sikkink, University of Notre Dame

Related Publications

Emerson, Michael O., David Sikkink, and Adele D. James. 2010. "The Panel Study on American Religion and Ethnicity: Background, Methods, and Selected Results." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49(1):162-171.


In order to compensate for known biases, such as non-response, which can vary for different subgroups of the population, the sample data are weighted. The demographic weighting parameters are derived from a special analysis of the most recently available Census Bureau's American Community Survey, 2006. This analysis produced population parameters for the demographic characteristics of adults 18 or older, which were then compared with the sample characteristics to construct sample weights.


When citing this study, the following information should be included:
Emerson, Michael O., and David Sikkink. Portraits of American Life Study, 1st Wave, 2006.

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