Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2009 Volume 5 :: Article 2
2009 Volume 5, Article 2
Neighbors in the Pews: Social Status Diversity in Religious Congregations

Author: Philip Schwadel (University of Nebraska)

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For the most part, Americans interact with other people like themselves—those with similar social and economic backgrounds. This homogeneity of social networks contributes in turn to social stratification and to the unequal distribution of social capital and civic integration. Religious congregations offer a rare opportunity for Americans to interact across social status lines. I use data from the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey, which includes survey responses from relatively large samples of attendees nested within a large random sample of congregations, to examine the prevalence of income and education diversity in religious congregations. In contrast to racial diversity, which is minimal, there are high levels of social status diversity in most congregations. Status diversity in congregations also varies with congregational characteristics, such as religious tradition, age of the congregation, and racial makeup of the congregation; neighborhood characteristics, such as urbanity and proportion racial minority; and region of the country. I conclude by discussing the implications of the opportunities for cross-status interactions in religious congregations.

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