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Religious Market Share and Intensity of Church Involvement in Five Denominations

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Proponents of the supply side approach to religion theorize that religious market share—the proportion of people in a geographical area who belong to a given denomination—is inversely related to religious commitment in that denomination. They argue that a small market share motivates religious leaders to compete harder in the religious market place, increasing the participation of members. Another perspective, often associated with secularization theory, make the opposite prediction. It argues that people find it difficult to remain religiously committed in social environments where they are numerical minoritiesbecause other people do not reinforce their beliefs and practices. We use data from a large study of financial giving to analyze the relationship between market share and commitment for five denominations in the United States. We find that market share has a negative effect on church financial giving within all five denominations and a weaker negative effect on attendance in threeof the denominations. We explore whether these effects are the spurious byproducts of pro-religious cultural norms associated with either the South or the presence of conservative Protestants in local areas. In models pooling all denominations, the negative effect of market share on financial giving and attendance cannot be explained away by either of these factors. However, the effect on attendance can be accounted for by congregational size.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Associate Professor; Department of Sociology; Indiana University South Bend; South Bend, IN

Publication date: 2000-03-01

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