Cultivating the common good : civic life and religious contexts in American society.
Social scientists have long recognized a positive link between religion and civic life in the United States. Americans who attend religious services more frequently, who pray more often, and who are more involved in the life of a congregation tend to be more civically engaged than their non-religious counterparts. However, the effects that religion has on civic engagement have been conceptualized primarily at the individual level in previous studies. Despite the contextual nature of religion, and the utility that social contexts have been shown to have for predicting individual behavior, relatively few studies have explored the impact that social and religious contexts have on civic involvement. Drawing on individual, congregational, and community level datasets, the four studies included in this project demonstrate different ways that religious contexts influence measures of civic engagement. Research findings suggest that the religious composition of a geographic area affects the size of the local nonprofit social service sector and that social and ethnic diversity have a positive impact on the community activity of local congregations. Furthermore, findings indicate that cultural and structural characteristics of a congregation affect the likelihood that individual attenders will be civically engaged and that various aspects of conservative religiosity affect the likelihood of community volunteering in different ways. Each of these findings is discussed in detail, and implications and suggestions for future research are proposed.