Research Analysis Lib Data

It is widely assumed that the divorce rate is

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Unformatted text preview: om east to west. In rank order by region, the divorce rate is lowest in the Northeast, moderate in the Midwest and South, and highest in the West. It is widely assumed that the divorce rate is directly related to the level of cultural homogeneity in the United States, that is, the greater the level of homogeneity, the lower the rate of divorce, and conversely. Traditionally, there has been a higher level of cultural homogeneity and normative agreement in the older parts of the United States than the developing areas of the West (Glenn and Shelton 1985). Higher mobility is associated with the western region of the United States, suggesting a basis for the elevated divorce rates in that part of the THE IMPACT OF RELIGIOUS HOMOGENEITY 343 country. The variation in divorce rates according to rural-urban residence also has been explored. Shelton (1987) found that large and medium-sized cities had nearly twice the frequency of divorce as nonurban, open-country areas. Again, relating these patterns to Durkheim’s social integration perspective, it follows that higher divorce rates should be observed in areas that exhibit a lower consensus on values and behavioral norms, and within areas that do not have strong systems of social control that facilitate conformity to marital expectations (Glenn and Shelton 1985; Shelton 1987). As the above factors have been linked to divorce, they will be dealt with as covariates in the analysis. Methods, Variable Definitions, and Descriptive Results In order to examine the relationship between the rate of currently divorced and religious homogeneity, information from a 20 percent random sample of counties from each of the 50 states is analyzed, that is, 621 of the 3,111 counties in the United States in 1990. While it would be preferable to utilize the entire universe of U.S. counties for the analysis, it was not logistically feasible (given the absence of a computerized database) to hand calculate the index of religious concentration (discussed below) for every county. Data on religious homogeneity were collected and reported by the Glenmary Research Center using 1990 as the base year (Bradley, Green, Jones, Lynn, and McNeil 1992). All other variables utilized in this research are from the 1990 Census of Population and Housing (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1991, 1992a, b, and 1993). County-level data comprise ideal units of analysis in that they provide a consistent geopolitical framework within which to collect social and economic data. By selecting a 20 percent sample of counties from each state, we were able to generate a sufficient number of cases to allow us to adequately address the issue at hand. In addition, a sample of this size is sufficiently representative of the wide variety of social, demographic, and economic forces that impact people across the country. Sixteen variables are included in the analysis. A complete set of data is compiled for each county. Dependent Variable: Persons Currently Divorced The measure of divorce that is used in this research is the total number of persons (male and female) currently divorced per 1,000 population aged 15 years of age and older in the United States. Divorce data were derived from the 1990 decennial census using the question on current marital status that was asked on the census short form. Key Independent Variable: Religious Homogeneity Religious homogeneity is derived from a statistical index that identifies the degree of concentration of formal religious groups within selected geopolitical 344 LARRY C. MULLINS ET AL. units, that is, counties. Following the approach utilized by Ellison, Burr, and McCall (1997), data assembled by the Glenmary Research Center in 1990 were utilized (Bradley et al. 1992). These data provide an estimate of the number of church members and adherents at the county level for 133 denominational groupings in the United States. Ellison, Burr, and McCall (1997) have noted the limitations of these data, for example, the information is provided by denominational headquarters rather than individual congregations and some religious collectivities (e.g., smaller groups and African-American congregations) may be underrepresented. Notwithstanding the shortcomings of these data, the Glenmary compilation represents the most complete set of information currently available on religious affiliation and church membership in the United States. As such, it was deemed appropriate for the current analysis. Religious homogeneity is operationally defined as the extent of concentration of organized religious denominations within a county as identified from the Glenmary data. It is measured through an adaptation of the “Herfindahl Index.” First used in antitrust policy to determine monopolistic share, it was designed to measure the extent of corporate concentration...
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