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Testing the Promise of the Churches: Income Inequality in the Opportunity to Learn Civic Skills in Christian Congregations

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Abstract:

Political researchers point to church activities as a major avenue for lower–class individuals to learn the civic skills necessary for many forms of political participation, the skills that higher–status individuals learn through education and occupation. This article tests this theory through multilevel analyses of the effects of both individual income and average congregational income on three measures of participation in church activities and organizations that offer participants the opportunity to learn and exercise civic skills. The results show that churches are only slightly stratified when it comes to members’ participation in charity, public policy, or social justice organizations within the church, suggesting that they offer some promise to teach civic skills to the lower–income members. Nevertheless, churches are moderately stratified in terms of members’ participation in administration, finance, or buildings organizations within the church, and strongly stratified in organizations in general within the church, suggesting that higher–income members receive the majority of civic–skill practice and training in Christian congregations in the United States.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5906.00137

Affiliations: Pennsylvania State University schwadel@pop.psu.edu

Publication date: 2002-09-01

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