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Religion and The American Occupational Structure

Religion, Work and Inequality

ISBN: 978-1-78052-346-0, eISBN: 978-1-78052-347-7

Publication date: 23 April 2012


Purpose – The connections between religious factors and stratification outcomes were long ignored in the sociological literature, yet a growing number of studies show that religion remains important for determining the life chances of individuals. I add to this literature by examining how religious affiliation is associated with the structure of occupational attainment in the United States.

Methodology – I analyze data from the 1972–2008 General Social Surveys to show how religious affiliation is related to occupational attainment and occupational mobility by gender and race.

Findings – I find that sectarian Protestants occupy the lower rungs of the occupational structure, even relative to their low rates of educational attainment. In contrast, Jews and nonidentifying respondents show considerable occupational advantage. Catholics also have specific patterns of occupational attainment that hint at their growing wealth parity with mainline Protestants. I also show that religious influences hold across racial and gender groupings, and across cohorts.

Social implications – Religion continues to significantly influence the occupational structure in the United States, and sectarian religion serves as an important anchor hindering occupational attainment.



Sherkat, D.E. (2012), "Religion and The American Occupational Structure", Keister, L.A., Mccarthy, J. and Finke, R. (Ed.) Religion, Work and Inequality (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 23), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 75-102.



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