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Religious Pluralism and Participation: Why Previous Research Is Wrong

David Voas, Alasdair Crockett and Daniel V. A. Olson
American Sociological Review
Vol. 67, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 212-230
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088893
Page Count: 19
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Religious Pluralism and Participation: Why Previous Research Is Wrong
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Abstract

Does religious pluralism undermine or promote religious involvement? Some secularization theories contend that diversity breeds loss of belief and lower participation. The religious economies model counters that involvement is boosted by the availability of alternative religious suppliers and the competition that results, with each group working harder to gain adherents. The issue is sufficiently important that a recent review found 193 tests of this question in 26 published articles. Almost all of these findings (both positive and negative) should be abandoned. The associations reported do not reflect the effects of pluralism but a previously overlooked mathematical relationship between measures of religious participation and the index of pluralism. Even when pluralism has no effect on participation, the correlation between these two variables is likely to be nonzero. The sign and magnitude of this expected correlation depend on the nature of the size distributions of the religious groups across the areas studied. Results from several frequently cited studies closely match what would be expected from chance alone. Various alternative methods for studying pluralism in future research are examined, but currently there is no compelling evidence that religious pluralism has any effect on religious participation.

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