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Proximity Matters: Exploring Relationships Among Neighborhoods, Congregations, and the Residential Patterns of Members

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Using the Philadelphia Congregations Census, the Neighborhood Change Database, the U.S. Census, and geographic information systems (GIS) software, this study compared characteristics of congregations made up of members who live nearby their congregation's building to those with more members who commute from outside the immediate area or outside the city. We considered whether the neighborhood characteristics in which the “commuter” versus “resident” congregations were located differed in regard to racial composition, socioeconomic status, and residential stability. The study found that where the pastor lives in relation to the building, denomination, racial composition of membership, and the stability of the neighborhood were related to members' residential proximity to the congregation building.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Jill Witmer Sinha is an Assistant Professor with Rutgers University School of Social Work., Email: 2: Amy Hillier is Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania., Email: 3: Ram A. Cnaan is Associate Dean for Research, directs the Doctoral Program in Social Welfare and the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice., Email: 4: Charlene C. McGrew is a doctoral student and fellow at the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice., Email:

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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