Religious congregations and welfare reform: Who will take advantage of "charitable choice"?
The "Charitable Choice" provision of the 1996 welfare reform legislation requires states that contract with nonprofit organizations for delivery of social services to include religions organizations as eligible contractées. This legislation altered the conditions under which religions organizations can provide publicly funded social services. I use data from the National Congregations Study, a 1998 survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,236 religious congregations, to address two questions: To what extent will congregations seek government support for social service activity? Which subsets of congregations are most likely to take advantage of these new opportunities? Univariate statistics show that more than one-third of congregations are potentially open to pursuing government funds to support social service activities. Multivariate analyses show that liberal and moderate congregations are much more likely than conservative congregations to pursue charitable-choice opportunities, and predominantly African American congregations are particularly likely to move in this direction. These results are consistent with sociological theory and research, but they are surprising in the context of the national politics of charitable choice.
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