Religion, Work and Inequality: Volume 23


Table of contents

(21 chapters)

The association between religion and material well-being is fundamental to research on inequality and stratification. Broadly considered, this association includes questions about how religious affiliation and religiosity are associated with work behaviors, education, income, wealth, and related family processes. Early social sciences debated if and how these traits and outcomes are related and offered important insight into the mechanisms that might explain empirical patterns (Simmel, 1997; Sombart, 1911; Weber, 1905/1930). However, the religious landscape and the mechanisms creating religion and well-being have both changed dramatically since the early days of the social sciences. The proliferation of Protestant denominations, the changing role of Catholics, and the increased presence of other religious traditions are beyond the scope of these early works. Moreover, the relationship between religion and stratification is no longer a function of large-scale shifts in the mode of production but rather reflects changing individual and group approaches to human capital, work, and saving. In the 1960s, sociologists revived these debates, but empirical challenges and a narrowing of the discussion to focus on Protestant–Catholic differences weakened and ultimately ended the literature's momentum (Broom & Glenn, 1966; Glenn & Hyland, 1967; Laumann, 1969; Lazerwitz & Rowitz, 1964; Lenski, 1961).

Purpose – This study examines religious stratification in America from the colonial period until the present.

Design/Methodology/Approach – We use a conflict theoretical approach to examine trends in religious stratification over time. The rankings of religious groups are based on tabulations of the religious affiliations of economic, political, and cultural elites collected at 37 data points from the colonial era until the present.

Findings – In the colonial period, the Upper stratum religious groups (Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists) accounted for nearly 90 percent of elites in cultural, economic, and political spheres. The representation of Upper stratum groups among American elites declined from the 1800s to the early 1900s, rebounded somewhat after the 1930s, and then declined after the 1960s. The four groups that comprise the New Upper stratum (Episcopalians, Jews, Presbyterians, and Unitarian-Universalists) account for nearly half of the nation's elites while representing less than 10 percent of the total population.

Research implications – Our research indicates that religious stratification has had largely destabilizing effects on society. In line with other research on stratification, we find that the harmful effects were somewhat muted when inequality was most severe, and these negative effects increased as religious inequality became less pronounced.

Originality/Value – This chapter highlights the importance of religion as a factor in stratification. The use of a conflict perspective allows us to bridge the gap between the stratification literature and the religion literature.

Purpose – In this chapter, we advance research on the socioeconomic ranking of religious groups by using both income and wealth to document the rankings of the six major religious groups in the United States – Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestants, black Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated – during 2001–2007, a period marked by both catastrophic economic losses and widespread economic gain.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Drawing from the Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID), we provide descriptive statistics to explore the socioeconomic differences among the six major religious groups. In addition, we note their ownership rates and changes in wealth and income during 2001–2007.

Findings – Overall, these findings point to enduring stratification in the U.S. religious landscape. Based on median net worth, leading into the Great Recession, the six major religious groups ranked in the following order: Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestants, the unaffiliated, and black Protestants. At the same time, these findings point to the upward mobility of white Catholics, who increased their income and made the greatest increase in net worth between 2001 and 2007. These data also suggest a decline in the socioeconomic status of the religiously unaffiliated as compared to previous studies.

Research implications – These findings illustrate the degree to which certain religious groups have access to wealth and other resources, and have implications for how the years leading into the Great Recession may have influenced households’ vulnerability to financial shocks.

Originality/Value – We use both income and wealth to examine whether different religious groups experienced any changes in income and wealth leading into the 2008 economic downturn.

Purpose – Conservative Protestantism is conceptualized as a cultural framework influencing class formation and transmission in the United States.

Design/Methodology/Approach – The framework is tested using Public-Use Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), Waves I, III, and IV. Four key outcomes – educational attainment, earnings, marriage, and parenting – are modeled as functions of class background and religious affiliation, controlling for other factors.

Findings – Religious affiliation and their effects on the normative pathways to adulthood help explain differential social mobility and the imperfect transmission of social class across generations. Religious culture plays an independent role in producing lower adult attainment via the life choices of conservative Protestant youth during the transition to adulthood.

Research limitations/Implications – This study is limited by the final age range (24–32 years) of the sample in Wave IV.

Originality/Value – Contributes to literature on conservative Protestants' educational attainment and labor force participation by charting the educational and income achievement of youth from varying class origins and identifying how childhood class location and childhood religious affiliation interact to affect adult socioeconomic status.

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.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to better understand the changing contours of corporate responsibility. This is accomplished by determining what kind of American is interested in socially responsible investing (SRI).

Methodology/Approach – Analyzing nationally representative survey data, I explore what factors are associated with self-proclaimed interest in SRI.

Findings – I find that interest in SRI is generally not patterned along class or religious lines. Instead, the power to “do good” is more evenly distributed across American society.

Research limitations – Future surveys should measure behavioral involvement in SRI and provide better religious affiliation measures.

Social implications – Higher levels of SRI involvement should bolster the SRI industry's ability to pressure corporate America to behave more ethically.

Originality/Value – This is the first analysis of nationally representative data on interest in SRI.

Purpose – This chapter explores the relationship between religious affiliation and wealth ownership focusing on generational differences.

Methodology – I use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the Health and Retirement Study to create descriptive statistics and regression analyses of the association between religious affiliation in childhood and adulthood for people of two cohorts.

Findings – This chapter shows that there are important patterns by religious affiliation in total net worth, real assets, and asset allocation across generations. My findings are consistent with past work on religion and wealth ownership showing that Jews, mainline Protestants, and white Catholics tend to have higher total wealth than other groups. In addition, I find that black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, and conservative Protestants tend to have relatively low wealth, consistent with research on religion, race/ethnicity, and wealth. My findings also show that these patterns are relatively robust across generations.

Research implications – The findings are relevant to research on inequality, wealth accumulation and saving, life course processes, and the effect of religion on stratification outcomes.

Originality/Value – This research shows how religious affiliation and wealth are related across generations.

Purpose – This chapter proposes a new model to explain how increased religiosity among children leads to higher eventual educational attainment; it does so by focusing upon the unique role that parental religiosity plays in this process – this intergenerational dimension has been neglected in previous research on the topic.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Using NLSY97 data, employing regression techniques, and incorporating information on parental religious behaviors, this chapter tests whether parental religiosity only matters because it transmits religiosity to children, and once children become religious themselves, parental religiosity becomes a redundant resource – or it has a powerful independent effect net of this socialization process.

Finding – Results generally support the parental religiosity theory, where parental religious service attendance uniquely produces positive educational effects, even net of religious socialization ones. Religious affiliation differences are generally minor. Additional models also provide evidence that parental religiosity and adolescent education are not related via some omitted variable.

Research limitations/Implications – Under this new perspective, children's educational attainment can rise, even if children are not religious themselves, because parental religiosity can promote parental behaviors conducive to children's schooling.

Originality/Value – Overall, parental religiosity deserves renewed attention as a cultural basis for inequality in the United States today.

Purpose – Previous studies have found that, for those born after 1960, individuals raised with no religious affiliation were less likely than any other religious group to complete a college degree. This finding is surprising in light of the increasing educational attainment of the American public, as well as the finding that declining religious belief is often presumed to accompany higher education. In this chapter, we explore the changing relationship between religious nonaffiliation and educational attainment for Americans over the past three decades.

Methodology – In order to disentangle the mechanisms behind this relationship, we consider the heterogeneity of nonaffiliates and examine educational attainment for three types of religious “nones.” Using the General Social Survey (1972–2008), we look for cohort differences in attaining a bachelor's degree among persistent nones, disaffiliates, and adult affiliates.

Findings – While being raised in no religious tradition was once predictive of higher odds of completing a college degree, the positive relationship between being raised a religious none and college completion has reversed itself in the past 30 years. Instead, for individuals born after 1960, being raised in no religious tradition is actually associated with lower odds of completing a 4-year college degree relative to adults who were raised in any religious tradition and continue to claim a religious identity in adulthood. This effect is particularly pronounced for adults who maintain no religious identity throughout the life course.

Social implications – We propose some explanations for this finding, with a particular emphasis on the potential significance of religious social networks in adolescence.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to better understand the connection between religious affiliation and educational attainment and how this connection has changed over time.

Methodology/Approach – We utilize the cumulative 1972–2008 General Social Surveys to examine the relationships between childhood religious affiliation, college degree attainment, and religious switching across three birth cohorts.

Findings – We find in early cohorts that traditions such as Conservative Protestantism and Catholicism are negatively associated with college degree attainment. However, switching out of those traditions is positively associated with obtaining a college degree. In later cohorts, these effects disappear.

Social implications – The finding that the relationships between religious affiliation and educational attainment are dramatically changing over time means that scholars, educators, and religious groups might need to revise their current thinking concerning the topic of religion and education.

Originality/Value of chapter – This research helps us better understand the complexities involved when thinking about the role of religion in education and vice versa. By explicitly considering the different causal and temporal factors involved, this analysis provides a more nuanced understanding of the connection between religious affiliation and educational attainment.

Purpose – We examine trends in religious attendance by educational group, with an emphasis on the “moderately educated”: individuals with a high school degree but not a four-year college degree.

Methodology – We conduct multivariate ordinary least-squares (OLS) regression models using data from the General Social Survey (from 1972 to 2010) and the National Survey of Family Growth (from 1982 to 2008).

Findings – We find that religious attendance among moderately educated whites has declined relative to attendance among college-educated whites. Economic characteristics, current and past family characteristics, and attitudes toward premarital sex, each explain part of this differential decline.

Implications – Religion is becoming increasingly deinstitutionalized among whites with moderate levels of education, which suggests further social marginalization of this group. Furthermore, trends in the labor force, American family life, and attitudes appear to have salient ramifications for organized religion. Sociologists of religion need to once again attend to social stratification in religious life.

Purpose – This chapter analyzes stratification in embeddedness in religious congregations, as well as the civic and political implications of this stratification in congregational embeddedness.

Methodology – With data from more than 70,000 attendees of 385 congregations, I examine how race, education, and income affect the prevalence of friendships in religious congregations, and how these friendships affect civic and political activity.

Findings – Analyses of friendships show that white and lower-class Americans are particularly likely to have close friends in their congregations, and attendees are disproportionately likely to have close friends in their congregations when other attendees are of the same race and level of education. Analyses of civic and political participation show that congregational friendships are strongly associated with civic and political participation, though the positive effects of congregational friendships on civic and political participation are moderately reduced for African-Americans and lower-class attendees.

Research Implications – The findings are relevant to future research on congregational stability, stratification in access to social resources, and U.S. civil society.

Originality/Value – This research shows that the resources that accompany congregational embeddedness, like many other resources, are stratified by race, education, and income.

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.

Purpose – In order to study how religious behaviour is evolving in contemporary societies, the chapter looks at the relation between the individuals' position in social stratification and their participation to the weekly mass, and at its evolution in contemporary Italy.

Design/Methodology/Approach – The data come from the Italian National Election Study (ITANES) database, including national representative surveys from 1968 to 2006, and are analyzed with logit models.

Findings – Weekly mass participation has decreased from 1968 to 2006. The trend was rapid in the 1960s and 1970s, has slowed in the 1980s, but it has started again in the 1990s. Ceteris paribus, the upper class, shows a consistently more religious behaviour than the intermediate and the lower ones, and that the least educated are more religious. There is also evidence of a strong and consistent cohort effect, persisting across the considered period. Each cohort does not change much its participation to the weekly mass over time, but each new cohort shows a lower level of participation.

Research limitations/Implications – The findings give support to the classical secularization thesis, despite the many critiques addressed to it since the 1990s. Given that Italy is one of the most religious Western countries, this is a quite important finding. Some support is also given to the hypothesis of religion as an ‘instrumentum regni’, according to which it is in the interest of the higher social strata to be more religious, as religion supports and legitimates existing patterns of social inequality. Findings concerning cohorts point to socialization as the actual mechanism changing behaviours and attitudes.

Purpose – Religion is an important driving force behind many lifestyle decisions. Therefore, it is surprising that research on cultural consumption and stratification has linked religion and religiosity with consumption patterns only to a limited degree. In this chapter, we outline several theoretical directions that can be used for studying the link between religion, religiosity, and cultural consumption and the consequences of this link for cultural stratification.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Our empirical analysis is based on data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), conducted in 2007 and pertaining to samples from 33 countries.

Findings – We present cross-national evidence illustrating that, first, there is a positive correlation between religiosity and cultural consumption in many countries and, second, there is little evidence that religion is significantly linked to cultural consumption. Furthermore, we find that the effect of religiosity on cultural consumption is comparable to that of important socioeconomic factors such as education and socioeconomic status. We offer three possible explanations to the findings. First, that religious individuals tend to be active individuals; therefore, they go more often to religious services and they are active also in cultural participation. Second, a certain level of religiosity affects cultural consumption by setting standards for the intensity of social ties. Third, religiosity plays a central role in marking boundaries of cultural distinction. In the last part of the chapter, we delineate motivations for further research interest in the link between religion and cultural consumption and discuss possible avenues for the development of such research.

Purpose – In this chapter, we introduce the Internet-based field experiment (IBFE) that offers numerous advantages for bringing stratification processes “back into” the study of religion. We present preliminary results from a study of class and race discrimination using this approach.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Using names of fictitious characters, we sent e-mails to a nationally representative sample of 4,680 U.S. Christian churches asking about possible membership. The e-mails varied only in the perceived race and class of the senders. We utilize a mixed methods approach to analyze variation in the content of the church responses.

Findings – Our early findings suggest significant variation by race/class manipulation, religious denomination, and region of the country in churches’ responses as well as the length of time they took to reply, the length of the response, the warmth, religious tone, and several other dimensions.

Research limitations/Implications – This study raises new opportunities for Internet-based research on religion in a variety of social settings, but there is not yet a well-established set of “do's” and “don’ts” for how to proceed. We advocate the development of a protocol of best practices as this research method develops.

Originality/Value – This study demonstrates the opportunities and pitfalls of the IBFE and the advantages it provides for studies of stratification and religion. Ours is the first study to apply this emerging method to the study of religion and stratification.

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Research in the Sociology of Work
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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