The Catholic University of America

Project Description

Religious Human Capital and Marginal Group Membership

Project Abstract

This research tests the hypothesis that the unchurched, while homogeneous along cognitive and behavior dimensions, is heterogeneous along the affective dimension. Something about the experiences of this subset of the unchurched connects them to group, making them feel �at home� in the church and among other Catholic. Specific aspects of the tradition � such as particular hymns or prayers � continue to resonate with these inactive members, explaining their ongoing self-identification. These individuals are marginal members in the truest sense � though not among the �churched,� they more than just inactive.

This study will use religious capital theory as its interpretive framework because of its proven ability to both explain and predict a variety of otherwise disparate facts about religious behavior: patterns of participation, belief, denominational mobility, life-cycle trends, intermarriage, and the impact of upbringing. Within this framework, emotional ties to the group emerge from an existing stock of friendships, experiences, and knowledge specific to one�s membership in the Catholic Church. The sense of connection and loyalty wanes over time as capital depreciates, such as when friendships are lost or when hymns that resonate cease to be played at mass. Aversion to other religious groups results from perceived lack of suitable substitutes.

Surveys released for this project: