Ethnocultural cleavages and the growth of church membership in the United States, 1860-1930


Journal Article

Recent research on the expansion of overall church membership in the United States has led to conflicting conclusions as to whether religious diversity or monopoly increases participation. This investigation helps resolve the debate by distinguishing among different religious traditions. It is hypothesized that differences in participation can be traced to racial, ethnic, and doctrinal divisions, and moreover, that these divisions also provide the contingent conditions under which competition or monopoly effects operate. Using pooled cross-sectional time series, comparisons center on Catholics, Baptists, and Mainline denominations. Separate analyses are presented for white and black Baptists, and for the Northern Baptist Convention that emerged in the early 20th century as a relatively liberal Baptist denomination. The results suggest that ecumenical and liberal religious traditions did accompany religious diversity, but membership in such churches grew very slowly. In contrast, groups that faced discrimination as well as those that shielded themselves from progressive currents of modernism sustained high rates of growth. Their monopoly situations are evident in the low religious diversity of counties in which they grew (as well as by low ethnic or racial diversity) and by their increasing spatial concentration over time. © 1993 Plenum Publishing Corporation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Blau, JR; Redding, K; Land, KC

Published Date

  • December 1, 1993

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 609 - 637

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1573-7861

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0884-8971

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/BF01115214

Citation Source

  • Scopus