Friday, October 08, 2010

Is going to church a low-status or high-status activity?

In the last post, there was some discussion about the relationship between race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), and church attendance. Among some in the HBD community, involvement in church seems to be a low-status activity.

My first step was to divide General Social Survey respondents into low-, middle-, and high-status groups based on a measure of job prestige (one third of the sample in each group). Then I calculated mean church attendance for the years 2000 through 2008 for each SES category for whites, blacks, and Mexican Americans separately.  

Mean church attendance score by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status

Low 3.15
Middle 3.49
High 3.73

Low 4.27
Middle 4.47
High 4.90

Low 3.81
Middle 3.73
High 3.79

As HBD-ers know, whites are the least churchgoing, and blacks are the most. If you assign a ranking to races and are comparing them, religiosity seems low-status.

But the plot thickens. Of all groups, the least religious category is low-status whites. Among whites, religiosity increases with SES. This is also the case with blacks. By contrast, low-status Mex-Ams go to church as often as their high-status counterparts.  So, for blacks and whites, if you are comparing yourself to other members of your race, religiosity is a high-status activity.

I should note that part of what is going on here is that young folks are both less religious and have less prestigious jobs.


  1. @ Ron:

    IIRC, you're a believer. How do you reconcile black religiosity with your Christian beliefs? Or in other words, isn't it a little unnerving that the least intelligent group is also the most religious?

  2. Going to church is high-status; believing in God is low-status.

  3. Anonymous11:09 AM

    I wonder if blacks may exaggerate how much they attend. An analysis of MMPI responses, which includes measures of how much respondents lie, showed that blacks consistently lied more than other races to make themselves look better. This is consistent with the finding that a huge percentage of blacks thought they were very good looking. Whereas whites had a more realistic view of their own attractiveness. I think I read the attractiveness finding here.

  4. OneSTDV: I'm skeptical of the wisdom of many of the beliefs of high-IQ groups. In the past century, for example, the Chinese and many Jews went for Communism. Wisdom demands that we take the pull of biology seriously.

  5. I should note that part of what is going on here is that young folks are both less religious and have less prestigious jobs.

    In light of this comment, the validity of the analysis may be in question.

    Can you control for age first?

  6. the validity of the analysis may be in question.

    Make that: "is in question".

  7. Shouldn't the analysis consider denomination? Traditionally, in the Northeast at least, Episcopalian and Congregationalist churches were ruling class institutions. Catholic and Baptist churches were working class institutions.

  8. Anonymous5:08 PM

    "Going to church is high-status; believing in God is low-status."

    Jokah, have you been reading the New Testament?Because that is almost word for word what Jesus said.

  9. Anonymous6:19 AM

    Who is more likely to pay his mortgage when he is underwater? Believers or non believers? White, hispanic, black? Low status, high status?


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