Income Inequality and Religion: Beliefs, Disagreements, and Politics Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
Creator
  • Long, Adam
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
Abstract
  • This dissertation presents three papers addressing the intersection of income inequality and religion, focusing on beliefs, disagreements, and politics. The first paper addresses how religion influences beliefs about income inequality around the world. The literature on stratification beliefs predicts a negative relationship between religion and the desire for governmental redistribution. A common explanation for this relationship portrays the church and state as substitute goods: religious involvement provides insurance against adverse events, making government programs and spending less necessary and desired. However, focusing solely on redistribution leaves unanswered the question of how religion influences beliefs about income inequality itself. If being highly religious or belonging to a particular religious group associates with support for an increase in income disparity--and not simply for an decrease in redistribution--then there is more to the theoretical story. This paper expands the conversation on religion and inequality by digging beneath the concept of "substitute goods" to address the specific question, "How does religion influence beliefs about income inequality around the world?" It presents multilevel mixed-effects linear regression models based on the World Values Survey/European Values Survey (WVS/EVS) demonstrating that support for income inequality correlates with being highly religious and with the interaction of being highly religious and identifying with a religious tradition whose core teaching addresses stratification. The second paper addresses the effect of religiosity on the amount of disagreement over income inequality within religious traditions around the world. Expectations that religion in the modern world would recede into private spheres of personal concern have not come to pass. Rather, contemporary religion continues to fuel disagreement over issues of major concern in the public realm. Prior research indicates that disagreement about public issues such as inequality intensifies within highly religious groups in the U.S. This paper presents heteroskedastic ordered probit regression models based on the World Values Survey/European Values Survey (WVS/EVS) to address the question, "What is the effect of religiosity on the amount of disagreement over income inequality within religious traditions around the world?" Including controls for nonreligious factors known to shape beliefs about this topic, the models provide evidence for the hypothesis that disagreement about income inequality intensifies within highly religious groups around the world. This empirical finding prompts the following theoretical insight: Far from producing consensus, high religiosity intensifies variation in beliefs about income inequality, pushing people toward divergent perspectives on this public issue. This is true for all religious groups around the world, but especially for Catholics, Protestants, and those who claim no religious affiliation. This helps to explain why identification with specific religious traditions does not produce uniform beliefs about economic stratification. The third paper addresses the effects of income and religiosity on support for involving religion in politics. Deprivation theory, which views religion mainly as a compensator for resources and opportunities, predicts higher religiosity among poorer people. Conversely, relative power theory, which views religion mainly as a mechanism of power, predicts higher religiosity among richer people. Recent research advocating the latter approach demonstrates correlations between higher economic status and religiosity--but fails to provide evidence that religion in these cases acts as a mechanism of power. To discover if religion provides a mechanism of power for the wealthy, this paper adopts the definition of secularization as declining religious authority in realms such as politics. It addresses the question, "What are the effects of income and religiosity on support for involving religion in politics?" Its ordered logistic regression models based on the World Values Survey/European Values Survey (WVS/EVS) provide solid evidence for the hypothesis that having a higher income correlates with less support for involving religion in politics and minimal evidence for the hypothesis that having a higher income and being highly religious correlates with more support for involving religion in politics. In the main, deprivation theory provides more accurate predictions of the relationship between income and support for involving religion in politics when defining secularization as declining religious authority.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Vaisey, Stephen
  • Zimmer, Catherine
  • Kurzman, Charles
  • Perrin, Andrew J.
  • Mouw, Ted
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2014
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
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