Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2005 Volume 1 :: Article 9
2005 Volume 1, Article 9
Social Mobility and Sect Transformation: Testing the Regression-to-the-Mean Hypothesis

Author: Sean F. Everton (Stanford University)

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Social scientists have long drawn on church-sect theory to explain religious variation and change. One of the theorys key insights is that, over time, sectarian movements tend to be transformed into churches. The most commonly cited factor in this process is upward intergenerational mobility. For years, social scientists believed that the primary cause of this upward mobility was the sectarian lifestyle itself, but Stark and Bainbridge (1985) have argued that a substantial amount of upward mobility must occur as a simple matter of regression to the mean, suggesting that sectarian movements should demonstrate more intergenerational mobility than nonsectarian movements do. Using conservative Protestantism as a test case and drawing on log-linear techniques, I put the Stark-Bainbridge hypothesis to a test. Specifically, I compare the intergenerational occupational mobility of conservative Protestants with that of individuals who belong to other religious traditions (or those who report no religious affiliation). I find that conservative Protestants are significantly more likely to demonstrate upward intergenerational mobility than are members of other major religious traditions and American society as a whole. I conclude with suggestions for future research.

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