Social Class

  • James D. Davidson
  • Ralph E. Pyle
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


This chapter examines the relationship between religion and the vertical ranking of persons and families in terms of their access to resources such as wealth, political power, and prestige. Part I contends that “fair shares” (or conflict) theory is better suited to the study of religion and stratification than either “fair play” (functionalist) theory or “religious economy” (rational choice) theory. Part II shows how fair shares theory illuminates our understanding of “religious stratification” in America (that is, the ranking of religious groups in terms of their members’ access to power, privilege, and prestige). Part III shows how the fair shares approach also helps to explain religion’s dual role of perpetuating social inequality at the same time that it promotes social equality.


Social Inequality Religious Group American Sociological Review General Social Survey Fair Share 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, C. (1970). White Protestant Americans. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  2. Baer, H. A., & Singer, M. (1992). African-American religion in the twentieth century: Varieties of protest and accommodation. Knoxvillle: University of Tennessee Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baltzell, E. D. (1966). “Who’s Who in America” and “The Social Register”: Elite and upper class indexes in metropolitan America. In R. Bendix & S. M. Lipset (Eds.), Class, status, and power (pp. 266–275). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barton, A. H. (1985). Determinants of economic attitudes in the American business elite. American Journal of Sociology, 91, 54–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bellah, R. (1967). Civil religion in America. Daedalus, 9, 1–21.Google Scholar
  6. Billingsley, A. (1998). Mighty like a river: The Black church and social reform. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Braun, D. (1997). The rich get richer. Chicago: Nelson Hall.Google Scholar
  8. Burns, G. (1992). The frontiers of Catholicism: The politics of ideology in a liberal world. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cantril, H. (1943). Educational and economic composition of religious groups. American Journal of Sociology, 47, 574–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cavendish, J. C. (2000). Church-based community activism: A comparison of Black and White Catholic congregations. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 39, 371–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chaves, M. (1999). Religious congregations and welfare reform: Who will take advantage of “charitable choice”? American Sociological Review, 64, 836–846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chaves, M., & Gorski, P. S. (2001). Religious pluralism and religious participation. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 261–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chaves, M., & Tsitsos, W. (2001). Congregations and social services: What they do, how they do it, and with whom. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 30, 660–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chaves, M., Giesel, H. M., & Tsitsos, W. (2002). Religious variations in public presence: Evidence from the national congregations study. In R. Wuthnow & J. H. Evans (Eds.), The quiet hand of God (pp. 108–128). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  15. Christopher, R. (1989). Crashing the gates. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  16. Christiano, K. J., Swatos, W. H., Jr., & Kivisto, P. (2002). Sociology of religion. Lanham, MD: AltaMira.Google Scholar
  17. Coreno, T. (2002). Fundamentalism as a class culture. Sociology of Religion, 63, 335–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Darnell, A., & Sherkat, D. E. (1997). The impact of Protestant fundamentalism on educational attainment. American Sociological Review, 62 (April), 306–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Davidson, J. D. (1977). Socio-economic status and ten dimensions of religious commitment. Sociology and Social Research, 61, 462–485.Google Scholar
  20. Davidson, J. D. (1985a). Theories and measures of poverty: Toward a holistic approach. Sociological Focus, 18, 177–198.Google Scholar
  21. Davidson, J. D. (1985b). Mobilizing social movement organizations. Storrs, CT: Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.Google Scholar
  22. Davidson, J. D. (1994). Religion among America’s elite: Persistence and change in the Protestant establishment. Sociology of Religion, 55, 419–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Davidson, J. D., Mock, A. K., & Johnson, C. L. (1997). Through the eye of a needle: Social ministry in affluent churches. Review of Religious Research, 38, 247–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Davidson, J. D., Pyle, R. E., & Reyes, D. V. (1995). Persistence and change in the Protestant establishment, 1930–1992. Social Forces, 74, 157–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Davidson, J. D., & Koch, J. R. (1998). Beyond mutual and public benefits: The inward and outward orientations of non-profit organizations, In N. J. Demerath et al. (Eds.), Sacred companies (pp. 292–306). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Davidson, J. D., Koch, J. R., & Pyle, R. E. (1999). Public religion and economic inequality (pp. 101–114). In W. H. Swatos, Jr. & J. K. Wellman, Jr. (Eds.), The power of religious publics. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  27. Davis, K., & Moore, W. E. (1945). Some principles of stratification. American Sociological Review, 10, 242–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Demerath, N. J. (1965). Social class in American Protestantism. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  29. Dudley, C. S., & Johnson, S. A. (1993). Engergizing the Congregation. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.Google Scholar
  30. Earle, J., Knudsen, D., & Shriver, D. (1976). Spindles and spires. Atlanta: John Knox Press.Google Scholar
  31. Emerson, M. O., Smith, C., & Sikkink, D. (1999). Equal in Christ, but not in the world: White conservative protestants and explanations of Black-White inequality. Social Problems, 46, 398–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ferraro, K. F., & Kelley-Moore, J. A. (2000). Religious consolation among men and women: Do health problems spur seeking? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 39, 220–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Finke, R., & Stark, R. (1992). The churching of America (1776–1990). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Fry, L. C. (1933). The reported religious affiliations of American leaders. Scientific Monthly, 36, 241–249.Google Scholar
  35. Gilkes, C. T. (1990). Until my change comes: Faith and Social Ministry in the African-American baptist tradition (pp. 179–202). In J. D. Davidson, C. L. Johnson, & A. K. Mock (Eds.), Faith and Social Ministry. Chicago: Loyola University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Glenn, N. D., & Hyland, R. (1967). Religious preference and worldly success: Some evidence from national surveys. American Sociological Review, 32, 73–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Glock, C. Y. (1964). The role of deprivation in the origin and evolution of religious groups (pp. 24–36). In R. Lee & Marty (Eds.), Religion and social conflict. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Goldstein, S. (1969). Socioeconomic differentials among religious groups in the United States. American Journal of Sociology, 74, 612–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Greeley, A. M. (1981). Catholics and the upper middle class. Social Forces, 59, 824–830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hadden, J. K., & Longino, C. (1974). Gideon’s gang. Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  41. Hall, C. F. (1997). The Christian left: Who are they and how are they different from the Christian right? Review of Religious Research, 39, 27–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hammond, P. E. (1992). Religion and personal autonomy. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  43. Hofrenning, D. J. B. (1995). In Washington but not of it: The prophetic politics of religious lobbies. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Howe, G. N. (1981). The political economy of American religion (pp. 110–137). In S. McNall (Ed.), Political economy. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.Google Scholar
  45. Hummer, R. A., Rogers, R. G., Nam, C., & Ellison, C. G. (1999). Religious involvement and US adult mortality. Demography, 36, 273–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hunt, M. O. (2002). Religion, race/ethnicity, and beliefs about inequality. Social Science Quarterly, 83, 810–831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hutchison, W. R. (1989). Protestantism as establishment (pp. 3–18). In W. R. Hutchison (Ed.), Between the times. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Kanagy, C. L. (1992). Social action, evangelism, and ecumenism: The impact of community, theological, and church structural variables. Review of Religious Research, 34, 34–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Keister, L. A. (2000). Wealth in America. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Keister, L. A. (2003). Religion and wealth: The role of religious affiliation and participation in early adult asset accumulation. Social Forces, 82, 175–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kluegel, J. R., & Smith, E. R. (1986). Beliefs about inequality. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  52. Konolige, K., & Konolige, F. (1978). The power of their glory. New York: Wyden Books.Google Scholar
  53. Korman, A. K. (1988). The outsiders: Jews in corporate America. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  54. Kraus, R. (2003). Western faith traditions on Capitol hill: Social origins of Washington offices. Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Norfolk, Virginia.Google Scholar
  55. Lazerwitz, B. (1964). Religion and social structure of the United States. In L. Schneider (Ed.), Religion, culture, and society (pp. 426–439). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  56. Lieberson, S., & Carter, D. K. (1979). Making it in America: Differences between eminent Blacks and White ethnic groups. American Sociological Review, 44, 347–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1964). On religion. New York: Schocken Books.Google Scholar
  58. McRoberts, O. M. (1999). “Understanding the new” Black Pentecostal activism: Lessons from ecumenical urban ministries in Boston. Sociology of Religion, 60, 47–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mock, A. K., Davidson, J. D., & Johnson, C. L. (1991). Threading the needle: Faith and works in affluent churches. In C. S. Dudley, J. W. Carroll, & J. P. Wind (Eds.), Carriers of faith (pp. 86–103). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.Google Scholar
  60. Morris, A. D. (1984). The origins of the civil rights movement: Black communities organizing for change. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  61. Nelsen, H. M., & Nelsen, A. K. (1975). The Black church in the sixties. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press.Google Scholar
  62. Niebuhr, H. R. (1929). The social sources of denominationalism. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  63. Noel, D. L. (1968). A theory of the origins of ethnic stratification. Social Problems, 16, 157–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Oliver, M. L., & Shapiro, T. M. (1999). Black wealth/white wealth. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  65. Park, J. Z., & Reimer, S. H. (2002). Revisiting the social sources of American Christianity 1972–1998. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41, 733–746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Patillo-McCoy, M. (1998). Church culture as strategy of action in the Black community. American Sociological Review, 63, 767–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Piven, F. F., & Cloward, R. A. (1977). Poor people’s movements: Why they succeed, how they fail. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  68. Pope, L. (1942). Millhands and preachers. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Pope, L. (1948). Religion and the class structure. Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science, 265, 84–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Priest, T. B. (1982). A note on who’s who in America as a biographic data source in studies of elites. Sociological Methods and Research, 2 (August), 81–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Pyle, R. E. (1993). Faith and commitment to the poor: Theological orientation and support for government assistance measures. Sociology of Religion, 54, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Pyle, R. E. (1996). Persistence and change in the Protestant establishment. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  73. Pyle, R. E., & Koch, J. R. (2001). The religious affiliation of American elites, 1930s to 1990s: A note on the pace of disestablishment. Sociological Focus, 34, 125–137.Google Scholar
  74. Pyle, R. E., & Davidson, J. D. (2003). The origins of religious stratification in Colonial America. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 57–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Regnerus, M., Smith, C., & Sikkink, D. (1998). Who gives to the poor? The influence of religious tradition and political location on the personal generosity of Americans toward the poor. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37, 481–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Roof, W. C. (1979). Socioeconomic differences among White socioreligious groups in the United States. Social Forces, 58, 280–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Roof, W. C., and McKinney, W. (1987). American mainline religion. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Roozen, D. A., McKinney, W., & Carroll, J.W. (1984). Varieties of religious presence. New York: Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  79. Ryan, W. (1981). Equality. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  80. Schneiderman, H. G. (1994). Introduction: Thoughts out of season: E. Digby Baltzell and the Protestant establishment. In E. D. Baltzell (Ed.), Judgment and sensibility (pp. 1–23). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
  81. Schrag, P. (1970). The decline of the wasp. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  82. Sherkat, D. E. (2001). Tracking the restructuring of American religion: Religious affiliation and patterns of religious mobility, 1973–1998. Social Forces, 79, 1459–1473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Smith, R. D. (2001). Churches and the urban poor: Interaction and social distance. Sociology of Religion, 62, 301–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Stark, R. (2003). Upper class asceticism: Social origins of ascetic movements and medieval saints. Review of Religious Research, 45, 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Stark, R., & Finke, R. (2000). Acts of faith. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  86. Takayama, K. P., & Darnell, S. B. (1979). The aggressive organization and the reluctant environment: The vulnerability of an inter-faith coordinating agency. Review of Religious Research, 20, 315–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Tamney, J., & Johnson, S. (1990). Religious diversity and ecumenical social action. Review of Religious Research, 32, 16–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Tamney, J., Burton, R., & Johnson, S. (1988). Christianity, social class, and the Catholic bishops’ economic policy. Sociological Analysis, 48, 78S–95S.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Tsitos, W. (2003). Race differences in congregational social service activity. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 205–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Tumin, M. (1953). Some principles of stratification: A critical analysis. American Sociological Review, 18, 387–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Verba, S., & Orren, A. (1985). Equality in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Voas, D., Olson, D. W. A., & Crockett, A. (2001). Religious pluralism and participation: Why previous research is wrong. American Sociological Review, 67, 212–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Weber, M. (1964). The sociology of religion (E. Fischoff, Trans). New York: Free Press of Glencoe.Google Scholar
  94. Will, J. A., & Cochran, J. K. (1995). God help those who help themselves?: The effects of religious affiliation, religiosity, and deservedness on generosity toward the poor. Sociology of Religion, 56, 327–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Williams, J. L., & Rodeheaver, D. G. (1989). Changes in the social visibility of Black and White women from 1925–1988. Sociology and Social Research, 73, 107–113.Google Scholar
  96. Wood, R. L. (2002). Faith in action. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  97. Wood, J. R. (1981). Leadership in voluntary organizations. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  98. Wood, J. R. (1970). Authority and controversial policy: The churches and civil rights. American Sociological Review, 35, 1057–1069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Wuthnow, R. (1988). The restructuring of American religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  100. Wuthnow, R., & Evans J. H. (Eds), (2002). The quiet hand of God. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  101. Zweigenhaft, R. L., & Domhoff, G. W. (1998). Diversity in the power elite. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • James D. Davidson
    • 1
  • Ralph E. Pyle
    • 2
  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest Lafayette
  2. 2.Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing

Personalised recommendations