Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Schwadel, Philip. 2012. “Social Class and Finding a Congregation: How Attendees are introduced to their Congregations.” Review of Religious Research 54(4):543-554.

doi 10.1007/s13644-012-0073-2


Copyright © 2012 Religious Research Association, Inc. Published by Springer B.V. Used by permission.


Despite the large numbers of Americans switching religious congregations each year, social scientists know relatively little about how people are introduced to new religious congregations. In this research note, I use multiple surveys of congregants—two surveys of Presbyterians in the 1990s and a survey of attendees from a random sample of congregations in 2001—to examine the effects of education and income on how attendees are introduced to their religious congregations. Results show that education and income are key predictors of how attendees find their congregations. In general, Americans with low levels of education and income are disproportionately likely to be introduced to their congregations through their social networks while those with higher levels of education and income are more likely to rely on denominational affiliation. These results address fundamental assumptions underlying theories of social class and religion and also provide religious leaders with valuable insight into the factors that influence how people are introduced to new religious congregations.