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Unformatted text preview: and a relative increase of 28.1 percent. Overall, however,
the basic result of the research is clear: the rate of currently divorced in U.S.
counties is typically lower where religious concentration is greater.
Summary and Conclusions
Although “religious concentration” as a macrosociological variable has been
largely ignored in the social science literature, it was found to impact at least one
critical area of study in this research, that is, the likelihood of being divorced.
While a multitude of studies have documented the inﬂuence of such factors as
unemployment, urban residence, income, and the employment of females on levels
of divorce, the impact of larger, contextual variables (other than region of residence) has remained relatively unknown. Extending Durkheim’s classic theory
of religion and its integrative effects on society to the matrix of behaviors that
occur within the marital setting, we were able to show that an area’s religious
concentration exerts a signiﬁcant independent effect on the likelihood of marital
success. While this variable does not emerge as one of the strongest predictors
of divorce in our analysis of covariates, its independent effect remains after the
systematic introduction of other variables into a series of regression equations.
Just as Durkheim hypothesized that religion serves as an integrative force
within society, it also appears to act as an integrative (or stabilizing) inﬂuence THE IMPACT OF RELIGIOUS HOMOGENEITY 351 on the institution of marriage. Where people live in relatively homogeneous
religious settings (and are presumably more tightly bound together), divorce is
lower (and vice versa). More than “religious involvement”—a frequently studied
topic in the divorce literature—is apparently involved. In addition to frequency
of church attendance (and similar measures of religious involvement) directly
impacting divorce rates, the larger community provides another important
dimension wherein marital relationships unfold. And, as this research has
indicated, one of the community/societal factors that appears to act most directly
as a mediating force on the prospects for divorce is religious concentration.
Under what conditions does religious homogeneity serve as a positive
mediating factor? It may, for example, be indicative of closer community agreement on a more generalized set of normative and moral directives. Where the
expectation to remain married is strong and negative sanctions are more apt to
be employed for the violation of normative expectations, marriages may be less
likely to terminate in divorce—irrespective of frequency of church attendance
and other “personal choice” variables. As Blau and others have suggested (Blau,
Beeker, and Fitzpatrick 1984), the social structure or “context” in which people
live often constrains individual choices. Religion as a part of that context,
reinforced by other community institutions and “voices,” apparently exerts an
inﬂuence independent of that of other structural and social-psychological factors.
Where religious differences are not as extreme, it may also mean that
people who are marrying across religious lines are characterized by more agreement on values and normative issues—hence, lower divorce rates. Marriages
tend to last longer and be characterized by higher levels of marital happiness
in areas populated by a smaller number of similar faiths and higher church
participation rates (Call and Heaton 1997). Indeed, a long line of research has
documented the positive inﬂuence of homogamy on mate selection and marriage
relationships vis-à-vis the incidence of divorce (Eshleman 1994:241–60).
Religious homogamy, regardless of the dimension—afﬁliation, attendance, or
beliefs—suggests similarities between spouses that may translate to more stable
and lasting marriages (Call and Heaton 1997).
Perhaps Durkheim summed it up best in another area of his work that has
not been heretofore addressed: the transition of society from solidarity based
upon the “mechanical” to solidarity stemming from increased differentiation and
specialization, that is, “organic” (Durkheim 1964). It may be argued that the
increasing divorce rate in American society in part reﬂects this transition, as do
a multitude of other social behaviors and institutions (including religion itself ).
Thus, homogeneity of religious afﬁliation is more indicative of mechanical
solidarity and its shared beliefs and collective inﬂuences, while lack of agreement
on religious outlook is more reﬂective of the organic (and the highly individualistic
behaviors that are associated with that orientation). Hence, an absence of generalized agreement on societal values and norms rather than lack of religious 352 LARRY C. MULLINS ET AL. cohesion per se may be the real exacerbating force in today’s elevated divorce
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This note was uploaded on 01/27/2014 for the course SOCI 3040 taught by Professor Lauramckinney during the Fall '13 term at Tulane.
- Fall '13