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Buddhists and Buddhism in the United States: The Scope of Influence

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Researchers have speculated about the growing influence of Buddhists and Buddhism in the United States, but little has been done to estimate the scope of this influence or to consider alternative ways of understanding it. We present data collected from a large, nationally representative survey completed in 2003. The data show that one American in seven claims to have had a fair amount of contact with Buddhists and that one person in eight believes Buddhist teachings or practices have had an important influence on his or her religion or spirituality. We describe three perspectives from which variations in exposure to Buddhists and being influenced by Buddhism may be understood: two versions of the “strictness hypothesis” from the religious economies literature and a broader argument about institutional embeddedness. We find empirical support for each of the three perspectives.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Princeton University 2: Bowdoin College, Brunswick

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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