The importance of economic surroundings on religious adherence.
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Smith, Buster G.
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Sociological explanations of religious adherence tend to focus on characteristics of the individual. One exception is the largely discarded concept of relative deprivation. By its nature, relative deprivation is dependent upon the comparative nature of one's relationship with fellow members of a community. This study expands upon the premise of relative deprivation by exploring the role that the ecological economic characteristics of a community play in determining religious adherence. Independent analyses are performed at the county-level, with Evangelical and Mainline Protestant adherence rates as the dependent variable to test several associated hypotheses. A combination of U.S. census and RCMS data from 2000 suggest that economic surroundings are important determinants of religious selection. In particular, income inequality has diametrically opposed effects on the adherence rates of Protestant denominations, with Evangelicals benefiting and Mainline groups suffering. Explanations include the need for boundaries and doctrinal claims of the how the world functions.