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Determinants of Membership Levels and Duration in a Shaker Commune, 1780-1880

John E. Murray
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 34, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 35-48
DOI: 10.2307/1386521
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1386521
Page Count: 14
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Determinants of Membership Levels and Duration in a Shaker Commune, 1780-1880
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Abstract

Membership levels in Shaker communes and commitment of individual Shakers were subject to religious and other forces. Population data in manuscripts from an autonomous subunit of one Shaker community provide entrance and exit dates and limited information on individual members, and levels of overall population. It is proposed that the Shakers attracted ever less well prepared entrants, and were unable to solve the second-generation problem of convincing young members to persist in the sect. Over time, entrants were ever more likely to have been urban-born, and urban born individuals were more likely to apostatize in the next year than the rural born. The longer members spent in childhood as Shakers the sooner they apostatized. Communities may have acted as a shelter for those especially affected by economic difficulties. Men who joined during recessionary periods were more likely to apostatize soon than those who joined in boom times, and overall levels of population rose in times of economic recession.

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