Religion and attainment

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Religion is an important determinant of social and economic attainment, but the mechanisms that underlie this relationship are not well understood. Early scholars recognized this connection, but their ideas do not adequately explain contemporary stratification patterns. Recent research documents robust empirical relationships between religion and material outcomes but has not yet begun to identify causes of these patterns. I fill this gap by providing a comprehensive, contemporary, theoretical explanation of the religion-inequality link that synthesizes ideas from early and more recent research. I draw on ideas from status attainment and life course research to develop a synthetic model that includes religion as both a background and a mediating component. I conclude by providing examples of implications of the model. These ideas improve understanding of the critical relationship between cultural orientation and material resources. © 2011 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.






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Keister, Lisa A (2011). Religion and attainment. Sociological Focus, 44(4). pp. 354–383. 10.1080/00380237.2011.10571403 Retrieved from

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Lisa A. Keister

Professor of Sociology

Lisa A. Keister is professor of sociology and public policy at Duke University and an affiliate of the Duke Network Analysis Center and the Duke Population Research Initiative. Her current research focuses on organization strategy, elite households, the processes that explain extremes in wealth and income inequality, and on group differences in the intergenerational transfer of assets. She has been focusing on the causes and consequences of net worth poverty recently with colleagues from the Sanford school and is currently completing two books: one on America’s wealthiest families, the one percent, and one on net worth poverty.

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