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Mega, Medium, and Mini: Size and the Socioeconomic Status Composition of American Protestant Churches

Religion, Work and Inequality

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

Publication date: 23 April 2012


Purpose – To assess the following question: Do large Protestant congregations in the United States exert social and political influence simply as a function of their size, or do other characteristics amplify their influence?

Methodology/Approach – Using the U.S.-based National Congregations Study and the General Social Survey, the chapter employs a multivariate regression model to control for other factors related to church size.

Findings – Larger congregations contain a larger proportion of regular adult participants living in high-income households and possessing college degrees, and a smaller proportion of people living in low-income households. In congregations located in relatively poor census tracts, the relationship between high socioeconomic status (SES) and congregation size remains significant. Across Protestant groups, size and proportion of the congregation with high SES are correlated. Individual-level analyses of linked data from the General Social Survey confirm the positive relationship between the size of congregation the respondent attends with both high household income and possessing a college degree. These analyses also reveal a negative relationship between size and low household income.

Social implications – Size is an important factor when considering the social impact of congregations.

Originality/Value of chapter – This chapter identifies a systematic difference between churches of different sizes based on SES. This relationship has not been previously identified in a nationally representative sample.



Eagle, D.E. (2012), "Mega, Medium, and Mini: Size and the Socioeconomic Status Composition of American Protestant Churches", 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, Leeds, pp. 281-307.



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