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Pew Research

Pew Research

The Demographics of How “Godly” Are Our Religious Beliefs?

Tags: , , , child well-being, culture, family, MARRI, marriage, Pat Fagan, Pew Research, religion, Uncategorized No comments

Pew’s new report is a landmark study in the sociology of religion, which “—sorts Americans into seven groups based on the religious and spiritual beliefs they share, how actively they practice their faith, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.” [1]

What are the seven types or groups? And how many are in each group?

If you want to know where you land within the seven types, go here.  For a quick overview of the difference between the types on major outcomes go here.  Here is one comparison (frequency of worship:

Keep the following relationship in mind (from MARRI’s own Mapping America) as you study the Pew report on matters family and marriage:

The chart above gives some idea of the link between frequency of religious practice and the importance given to marriage.  I note this as a reference point to keep in mind as you study the details below.

What is the relationship between Pew’s seven types and the typical identification by denomination?

As I am Roman Catholic, naturally, I paid attention to how represented Roman Catholics are “Sunday Stalwarts” (13%).  [By the way it is very easy to misread this chart: it is not the percent of Roman Catholics who are Sunday Stalwarts but the percent of Sunday Stalwarts who are Roman Catholic).  But still, for Catholics it is a poor showing indeed, for a religion which puts so much emphasis on the Mass (as the act of Redemption, and the obligation of weekly worship of God by this means).  Compared to Evangelicals they are weak in worship, even if, by the nature of being an Evangelical, one self-selects into a devout group, whereas being Catholic has (in ordinary life) as much to so with what one was born into as it has to what you intend do about it.  The biggest showing for “Catholics” is among the Diversely Devout — a strange title for you if you are “Catholic” because devout usually means a high level of faithfulness but not in this case! However, for the Pew typology the Diversely part fits it fits by Catholic norms even as the Devout part fits by Pew Typology norms.  But Pew acknowledges the shortcomings of its “clustering” techniques.  Even given my concerns the data is very helpful. 

What is the relationship between the seven types and family behaviors?

As expected: There is a decrease in impact with a decrease in worship:

What is the relationship between marriage and the seven types?

Given that the next chart does not control for age it is not all that helpful.  The biggest issue in “marriage” is the intactness of the biological parents’ marriage between their mid-30’s and their early 50’s, that phase of family life when their marriage has the greatest influence on their children’s future. From the Pew data below,  we cannot tell. 

It would be nice to figure out where the 7 types tend to fall in the different strata of family structures below. (From the MARRI collection of 5 thousand charts on family structure from the 1940’s to the present).

The most disturbing finding:

For the future of our nation, the most disturbing finding for me is the following:

From this we see a disturbing polarization outside of the Sunday Stalwarts (who have some balance on the issue).  I would be among those who would say (with a major caveat) that it is not necessary to believe in God to have good values and to be moral. I have met many such people.  My caveat: it is much easier to be moral and have good values if one practices believes in God enough to worship him in community.   I don’t trust the ‘God and Country’ type nor the ‘Diversely Devout’ to build the bridges necessary for a functioning polis or political community, which at bottom is a discourse on political morality.  And clearly the remaining groups in the Typology see no contribution from religion to morality.  Now that is dangerous! The more the Sunday Stalwarts shrink as a percent of the nation, the more polarized and the fewer bridge builders we will have, leaving more and more of the country polarized.  Reason and philosophy will have no place in matters moral!

For the “wonks”: Notes on Motivation and Method from the Pew Report

“Pew Research Center’s religious typology is not meant to replace conventional religious affiliations, but rather to offer a new and complementary lens with which to glean new insights into religion and public life in the U.S.” [2]

“The typology groups were created using cluster analysis, a statistical technique that identified homogeneous groups of respondents based on their answers to 16 questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.” [3]

“In some ways, cluster analysis is as much art as science. The groups that emerge will depend on both the number of groups that researchers specify and the questions that they choose to include in the analysis. What’s more, there is no “correct” cluster solution or any single criteria for deciding which solution is best. Researchers must weigh a number of factors: whether it’s clear why people are grouped together, whether the groups are different enough from each other to be analytically useful, and whether the groups are consistent with what researchers already know about the subject.” [4]

“In preparing this report, researchers tested several possible solutions – ranging from five to eight groups – and experimented with including larger and smaller numbers of questions.” [5]

“Researchers ultimately settled on the 16-question, seven-category cluster solution summarized in this report because it has several strengths. First, the solution divides respondents into a relatively small number of groups that are distinct from one another, large enough to permit statistical analysis, and substantively meaningful. Second, all the survey questions that went into the algorithm are measures of religious or spiritual characteristics, making this truly a religious typology.” [6] [1-6] From the Report.

Wealth Inequality and Race

family structure, Great Recession, Pew Research, race, religion, wealth inequality No comments

According to a recent Pew report, the racial/ ethnic wealth divide has widened since the Great Recession. Commentators have already begun to speculate plausible rationales for this gap: inability for minorities to replenish savings, differences in financial assets, or disparate accumulations of wealth. But each of these explanations evades the two root issues at hand: family structure and frequency of religious worship.

Family structure. The intact, married family consistently produces the best economic benefits and averts financial woes. Pew’s report measured race/ ethnicity without controlling for family structure. Because the rate of family intactness is higher among whites (54 percent) than blacks (17 percent) and Hispanics (41 percent), “whites” as a racial class seemed best off.

However, as Chart 1 shows, family structure cannot be ignored. Marriage is associated with lower rates of poverty, independent of race. So, for example, the poverty rate for single white mothers is three times higher than the poverty rate for married black families. Further investigation will likely show that the true wealth divide following the Great Recession is between intact and non-intact families, especially single mothers on welfare. As Sheldon Danziger concluded back in 1986, families on welfare are stuck in a perpetual cycle of poverty because their income is disconnected from the market-based economy. Even if the economy improves, the welfare recipient’s income remains stagnant.

The importance of family structure in an improving economy is conveyed in the Iowa Youth and Families Project, widely regarded as having the richest archive of life record data on rural families and children in the United States. Over a series of decades, researchers collected data on two-parent families during and after the Iowa Farm Crisis—the worst decline in America since the 1930s. They found that the children from two-parent families from Iowa farms, despite faring worse than any other group, improved the most due to their strong family relations, productive roles, ties to grandparents, ties to their community, and resourcefulness. Recovery from the Great Recession is linked to similar familial and community factors.

Frequency of religious worship. The intact married family may fare well following economic recessions, but the intact married family that worships frequently will fare best during and after these times of difficulty. Couples whose marriages lasted 30 years or more reported that their faith helped them to deal with hard times, and was a source of moral guidance in making decisions and dealing with conflict. Adolescents whose mothers attend religious services at least weekly display better health, greater problem-solving skills, and higher overall satisfaction with their lives, regardless of race, gender, income, or family structure. An increase in religious practice is associated with greater hope and a greater sense of purpose in life, and religious affiliation and regular church attendance are among the most common reasons people give to explain their own happiness.

Beyond personal hope and well-being, religiosity confers many benefits on society as a whole. Religious attendance is associated with direct decreases in both minor and major forms of crime and deviance, to an extent unrivalled by government welfare programs. Religious individuals are 40 percent more likely than their secular counterparts to give money to charities. Compared to their secular counterparts, religious individuals are more than twice as likely to volunteer. Recovering from a depleted economy requires communal support; this support is most readily available in communities with high levels of religious participation … something that is free to anyone who wants it.

Pew’s study of wealth inequality is certainly thought-provoking; however, it is futile to discover such gaps in society if we fail to cure their causes. Reviving all of society following the Great Recession mandates an immediate attention to restoring the intact married family that worships frequently.