The Measure of American Religion: Toward Improving the State of the Art

Social Forces, Vol. 79, pp. 291-318, 2000

Posted: 2 Oct 2006

See all articles by Brian Steensland

Brian Steensland

Indiana Univeristy

Jerry Z. Park

Baylor University

Mark D. Regnerus

University of Texas at Austin - Population Research Center

Lynn D. Robinson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

W. Bradford Wilcox

University of Virginia

Robert D. Woodberry

University of Texas at Austin - Population Research Center

Abstract

Recently, scholars have devoted renewed attention to the role of religion in American life. Thus, it is important that they use the most effective means available to categorize and study religious groups. However, the most widely used classification scheme in survey research (T.W. Smith 1990) does not capture essential differences between American religious traditions and overlooks significant new trends in religious affiliation. We critique this scheme based on its historical, terminological, and taxonomical inaccuracy and offer a new approach that addresses its shortcomings by using denominational affiliation to place respondents into seven categories grounded in the historical development of American religious traditions. Most important, this new scheme yields more meaningful interpretations because the categories refer to concrete religious traditions. Because of increased accuracy in classification, it also improves model fit and reduces measurement error.

Keywords: denomination, affiliation, religion, religious tradition, T.W. Smith, religious affiliation

Suggested Citation

Steensland, Brian and Park, Jerry Z. and Regnerus, Mark D. and Robinson, Lynn D. and Wilcox, W. Bradford and Woodberry, Robert D., The Measure of American Religion: Toward Improving the State of the Art. Social Forces, Vol. 79, pp. 291-318, 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=933979

Brian Steensland

Indiana Univeristy ( email )

107 S Indiana Ave
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Jerry Z. Park

Baylor University ( email )

One Bear Place #97326
Waco, TX 76798
United States

Mark D. Regnerus

University of Texas at Austin - Population Research Center ( email )

University of Texas
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Lynn D. Robinson

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

W. Bradford Wilcox (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.virginia.edu/sociology/peopleofsociology/bwilcox.htm

Robert D. Woodberry

University of Texas at Austin - Population Research Center ( email )

University of Texas
Austin, TX 78712
United States

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