Original Paper

Review of Religious Research

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 65-84

First online:

Measuring Religiousness Among Older African Americans: Exploring Race-of-Interviewer Effects

  • Christopher G. EllisonAffiliated withUniversity of Texas
  • , Michael J. McFarlandAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Texas Email author 
  • , Neal KrauseAffiliated withUniversity of Michigan

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In recent years a number of studies have explored possible sources of nonrandom error and response bias in survey data on religion. Building on a longstanding body of work in the social sciences, we examine a neglected issue in this domain: the potential for race-of-interviewer effects, specifically in African Americans’ self-reports of various dimensions of religiousness. After outlining two competing perspectives on this issue—which we term racial deference and racial solidarity—we test relevant hypotheses using data from the African American oversample of a nationwide study of older adults. Results indicate that older blacks tend to report higher levels of non-organizational religious practices and subjective religiousness when interviewed by whites. A number of implications and promising directions for future research are discussed.


Religion Race Measurement African Americans Response bias Race-of-interviewer effects