Date of Award

2000

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Charles M. Tolbert, II

Abstract

Recent research on the relationship between civic community and poverty concludes that high levels of civic involvement are associated with low poverty levels. I revisit the relationship between civic community and poverty by asking whether it differs across counties with different social structural characteristics. I test for interactions between the presence of civically engaged denominations and area racial composition, single female household headship, and metropolitan status. The association between the percent of a county's population in civically engaged denominations and poverty differs according to certain county social structural characteristics. First, areas with a critical percentage of African Americans demonstrate a stronger association between a church-based measure of civic engagement and poverty than other areas. Given the historic reliance of African Americans on the church and the higher poverty rates associated with African American composition, civically engaged religious denominations have a greater potential to mediate the effects of poverty in areas with a high percent of African Americans. Secondly, I find that the negative relationship between the percent of the population in civically engaged religious denominations and poverty differs according to single female household headship. Since women participate in religious organizations more than men and since women's social networks involve more women than men, civically engaged religious denominations are more valuable to women than men in escaping poverty. Thus, poverty rates in areas with a large percent of households headed by single females are more sensitive to the percent of the population in civically engaged religious denominations than those with fewer of these households. Finally, the negative association between the percent of the population in civically engaged denominations and poverty is stronger in metropolitan counties than in nonmetropolitan counties. Formal civic mechanisms are more important in mediating poverty in metropolitan areas because they lack the dense, informal relationship that foster embeddedness in nonmetropolitan areas. All of my findings support my proposition that the relationship between civic engagement and poverty is conditional on structural characteristics of a county.

ISBN

9780599853317

Pages

129

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