Religious influences on understandings of racial inequality in the United States

Penny A Edgell, Eric Tranby

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67 Scopus citations


How does religion influence the way Americans understand the racial inequality that pervades our society? Only a few studies have explored this question, concentrating on how religious conservatism affects whites' views, and generating conflicting findings. Using data from a national random sample telephone survey (Edgell, Gerteis, and Hartmann 2003, N = 2081), we find that among whites, both gender and education shape the effects of religious conservatism on attitudes toward racial inequality. We show that religious subcultural effects are different for African Americans and Hispanic Americans than they are for whites. We also find that, across religious subcultures, the more religiously involved have less progressive views on racial equality than those who are less involved. We demonstrate the interaction of religious subculture, race, education, and gender in forming American's views of racial inequality and we identify other religious effects on views of racial inequality not explored in previous research. We argue that to understand how religion shapes racial attitudes we need to do more in-depth research on the religious subcultures of non-whites, expand our focus beyond conservative Protestants, take into account religious institutional factors that operate across religious subcultures, and explore the structural factors that shape the use of religious cultural tools in forming racial attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-288
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2007


  • Conservative Christian
  • Race
  • Racial attitudes
  • Racial inequality
  • Religion


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