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The Growth and Decline of the Population of Catholic Nuns Cross-Nationally, 1960-1990: A Case of Secularization as Social Structural Change

Helen Rose Ebaugh, Jon Lorence and Janet Saltzman Chafetz
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Jun., 1996), pp. 171-183
DOI: 10.2307/1387084
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1387084
Page Count: 13
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The Growth and Decline of the Population of Catholic Nuns Cross-Nationally, 1960-1990: A Case of Secularization as Social Structural Change
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Abstract

The number of Catholic nuns has been declining in the United States and other Western nations for 25 years. We argue that the decrease in the number of nuns has resulted (in part) from a particular form of secularization that pertains to social structural changes in substantially industrialized nations, by which the expansion of educational and occupational opportunities for women reduces the attractiveness of Catholic orders as avenues for social mobility. Using a sample of 50 nations, and a measure of the change in the ratio of nuns to Catholic population between 1960 and 1990, our findings indicate that among nations exceeding the 1960 median in economic development, but not the lesser developed ones, the percentage of employed women working in professional and managerial jobs in 1960 (occupational opportunity) is highly related to the dependent variable. The findings concerning tertiary educational rates for women in 1960 (educational opportunity) are weak but in the predicted direction.

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