A Handbook of the Sociology of Religion

By Michele Dillon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Demographic Methods for the Sociologyof Religion
Michael Hout

The sociology of religion may not overlap with demography in many people's minds, but two facts about the past one hundred years of American religion indicate how demography helps shape the religious landscape. Fact 1: Most people practice the religion their parents taught them. That means that the principal factor in the changing religious composition of any given society (and of the United States in particular) is the number of children each adult has to teach, that is, the relative fertility rates of different religions (Hout, Greeley, and Wilde 2001). Fact 2: Most people who have switched from one religion to another have switched from their parents' religion to their spouse's religion. That means that the prevalence, timing, and selectivity of marriage also affects the distribution of people across religions. In this chapter, I will lay out some of the demographer's concepts and methods that have the greatest utility for the sociologist of religion.

To motivate attending to the details, however, let us consider a “thought experiment” – not a flight of fancy, something close to the way societies are organized. Imagine a country that has two religions, one larger than the other. Imagine further that, over time, the minority religion grows faster than the majority one. To be realistic, it would be okay to imagine that the population as a whole grows and that both groups grow with it; the key condition is that the smaller one is growing faster than the larger one. Throw in one more (realistic) supposition: Suppose that in the imagined country most people practice their parents' religion at a rate comparable to the rate at which Americans do. If these three things are all true, then, as time goes on, the minority religion will come closer and closer to being the same size as the larger one. Given enough time and a constant difference in fertility, the minority religion would eventually become as large as the majority religion; they could even reverse rank, that is, the one that was originally smaller could become the majority religion and the one that was originally larger could become the minority religion.

Casual observers of the imagined society I was referring to would wonder why the minority faith was growing. Some might figure that members of the initially larger religion were switching to the smaller alternative. But we know it's demography, not switching that is changing the population. In fact, the country's religious distribution is changing without any individual actually changing religion. The combination of differing demography and stable intergenerational religious socialization would be sufficient

-79-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
A Handbook of the Sociology of Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 481

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.