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The Religious Institutional Base and Violent Crime in Rural Areas

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Research on the relationship between religion and crime has typically focused on individual religiosity and delinquency, or moral communities and crime at the macro level. This study extends prior research by delineating the sociological implications of a strong religious institutional base, and investigating the ties between the religious institutional base and violent crime across rural communities. Multivariate regression analysis of Uniform Crime Report data on violent crime, Census of Churches and Church membership data, and U.S. Census data circa 2000 reveal that rural violent crime rates on average are consistently lower where there are more churches per capita. This relationship holds net of the overall adherence rates, the presence of civically engaged religious adherents, and the presence of conservative Protestant adherents. Moreover, regional variations are evident, with the South and the Midwest—two highly religious regions of the country—sustaining most of the observed institutional effects.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Matthew R. Lee is Associate Professor of Sociology and the Coordinator of the Crime and Policy Evaluation Research (CAPER) Group, Department of Sociology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803., Email:

Publication date: 2006-09-01

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