Discussion: Understanding Ethnicity
People often try to categorize one another based on single factors such as place of origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, language, tribal affiliation, national boundaries, and personal philosophy. Today’s world is so diverse and complex, however, that you cannot assign an individual to such a simple category. Instead, diversity and complexity are best expressed through self-described ethnicity, which may be based on a variety of factors. For this Discussion, reflect on the definition of ethnicity and consider how it might influence your human services practices.
Is there a status quo in your work life that you think could be changed? In this Discussion, you will cultivate some of the important skills needed to challenge the existing state of affairs in your work life. Start by looking around your current workplace or envision the workplace at an organization with which you are familiar and start thinking, "What if?"
With these thoughts in mind:
Area of study is mental and behavioral health in children
Post a brief definition of ethnicity, based on your understanding of how ethnicity is presented in the Learning Resources. Then, explain how ethnicity may influence human services practices in your area of interest and why.
The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare Volume 35 Issue 4 December
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Religious Congregation-based Social Service Delivery Efforts R . Khari Brown Wayne State University
Follow this and additional works at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/jssw
Part of the Race and Ethnicity Commons, and the Social Work Commons
This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Social Work at ScholarWorks at WMU. For more information, please contact [email protected]
Recommended Citation Brown, R . Khari (2008) "Racial/Ethnic Differences in Religious Congregation-based Social Service Delivery Efforts," The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare: Vol. 35 : Iss. 4 , Article 6. Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/jssw/vol35/iss4/6
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Religious Congregation-based Social Service
R. KHARI BROWN
Wayne State University Department of Sociology
The current study utilizes Swidler's (1986) cultural toolkit theory to explain racial/ethnic differences in American religious congre- gations' provision of social service programs. This study suggests that black Americans' reliance upon structural tools to assess pov- erty contributes to their congregations being more heavily involved than majority white congregations in the provision of social ser- vices that attempt to make a longer-term impact on community life (i.e. academic tutoring and job training). In contrast, white Amer- icans' greater reliance upon individualistic tools to understand poverty arguably contributes to their congregations being more heavily involved in the provision of programs that have a short- er-term impact on community life (i.e. food, thrift, and shelter). While majority Latino congregations are less likely than are black congregations to provide longer-term impacting programs only, majority Asian congregations tend to be less heavily involved in the provision of both longer and shorter term impacting programs.
Key words: race, religion, social service delivery
The current study assesses racial/ethnic differences in the social service programs that American religious congregations provide. Since this country's founding, American congrega- tions have involved themselves in community work. In the absence of a federal welfare safety net up until the New Deal
Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, December 2008, Volume XXXV, Number 4
96 Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
Era, houses of worship and other religious organizations were key to the provision of emergency services, housing assistance, and other forms of social service (Hall, 1994; Holifield, 1983; Jeavons, 1994). At the same time, blacks were often denied service from white religious organizations in many Northern and Southern cities up until the civil rights era (Phillpott, 1991). This led many black congregations, as under-resourced as they were, to act as informal social service agencies in many black communities (Mays & Nicholson, 1933; Myrdal, 1944; Frazier, 1963; Philpott, 1991). While blacks are no longer excluded from private or public social services, they remain far more likely than whites to live in impoverished communities in which churches are often one of few non-governmental organiza- tions committed to community development (Billingsley, 1999; Gronbjerg, 1990; Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990). This study contends that the disparate social economic experiences of blacks and whites have contributed to their congregations adopting dif- fering cultural approaches in understanding and subsequently responding to poverty.
By religious culture, this study is referring to a set of norms, values and beliefs agreed upon by church members that voluntarily join or associate with a specific religious group (Emerson & Smith, 2001; Swidler, 1986). This is not to deny the possibility of contested points of view or beliefs within a given religious group. Overall, however, there is a commitment to a predominate schema of social reality. Consistent with the cultural toolkit thesis, symbols, stories, beliefs, and rituals are utilized by members to gain an understanding of social reality (Swidler, 1986). In essence, culture allows group members to develop a common understanding of social reality and to develop agreed-upon solutions to concerns.
The fact that white Americans are far more likely than are blacks to live in communities with relatively low levels of poverty, high levels of middle class residents, and local gov- ernments that are, more or less, able to adequately fund city services likely contributes to whites maintaining a more in- dividualistic orientation in understanding poverty (Bishaw, 2005; Massey & Denton, 1995). That is, whites are more likely than are blacks to believe that poverty results from individu- als not trying hard enough (Kinder & Sanders, 1996). This
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Congregation-based Social Service Delivery 97
freewill individualist orientation is based on the premise that individuals exist independent of structures, institutions, and even history (Stark & Glock, 1969). From this perspective, ev- eryone has natural freedom and autonomy such that each indi- vidual has the power to improve his or her status, due, in part, to their creator, which allows humans to develop a free market system and laws that protect individual rights (Emerson & Smith, 2001; Stark & Glock, 1969). This is not to suggest that predominantly white congregations reject their moral obliga- tion to care for the poor. Rather, due to the extent to which such congregations provide social services, it is plausible that they invest more resources than do black congregations in pro- grams that assist individuals recover from poor decisions that lead to temporary misfortune.
In contrast, the historical memory of and continued experi- ences of racial discrimination along with the disproportionate amount of poverty-related ills within black communities con- tributes to blacks maintaining a more structural approach in understanding poverty. That is, blacks are more likely than are whites to believe that poverty results from racial discrimina- tion, a lack of livable-wage jobs, and quality education (Kinder & Sanders, 1996). This approach does not suggest that predom- inantly black congregations deny the role that agency plays in the persistence of poverty. However, black congregations tend to adopt a prophetic theology in which greater weight is placed on the sinful nature of institutions that constrain the choices and life chances of marginalized groups. That being said, it is plausible that predominantly black congregations are more likely than are predominantly white congregations to provide programs that attempt to make structural changes in their communities.
The cultural toolkits available to the social service efforts of congregations outside of the black-white landscape are not readily apparent. The fact that Asian and Latino communities maintain a relatively high proportion of first generation im- migrants may contribute to their congregations maintaining a greater commitment to helping members assimilate than in providing for the physical communities that surround their congregations. The current study attempts to add clarity to our understanding of the social service efforts of American
98 Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
congregations by assessing differences in the social service programs that predominantly black, white, Asian, and Latino congregations provide.
Race, Resources and Social Service Strategies
Almost all prior studies on congregation-based social service delivery suggest that black congregations tend to provide more social services than do white congregations (Cavendish, 2000; Chaves & Higgins, 1993; Chaves & Tsistos, 2001). However, it is not clear which programs black congre- gations are actually more likely to provide. As stated above, this study contends that the more individualistic cultural ap- proach of predominantly white congregations may contribute to them being more likely than black congregation to provide programs that provide temporary relief. In contrast, the more structural orientation of black congregations may contribute to these congregations being more likely than white congre- gations to provide programs that attempt to address the root causes of poverty, such as educational and job skills training. Tsitos's (2003) national study of congregations is the only one to date that assesses the program types that congregations provide by the proportion of blacks that attend such congrega- tions. Consistent with the racial toolkit thesis, he finds that the more blacks that attend a congregation, the more likely it is to provide the long-term impact educational and mentoring pro- grams and the less likely they are to provide the shorter-term impact programs and clothing. However, by not directly com- paring black to white, Asian, and Latino congregations, the re- lationship between race/ethnicity and the types of programs that congregations provide is not completely clear. This study attempts to build upon Tsisto's (2003) study by doing so.
The above cultural distinctions along racial lines are not to suggest that cultural differences among white or among black Christians' understanding of the persistence of poverty do not exist. Mainline Protestant and Catholic Church leadership tend to maintain a more structural approach to their assess- ment of poverty than do Evangelical Protestant leaders. The social gospel and justice traditions of Mainline Protestant and Catholic theology respectively tend to emphasize the dignity
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Congregation-based Social Service Delivery 99
of earthly existence, which calls for the eradication of econom- ic and political barriers that limit life chances of marginalized populations (Findlay, 1993; McGreevy, 1996). Since the mid- 1960s, both the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the National Council of Churches (NCC) have established offices committed to reducing poverty (USCCB, 2007; NCC, 2007). Similarly, a majority of Mainline and Catholic clergy in this country believe that social justice is the Lord's work (Jelen, 2003; Smidt et al., 2003). And, it is this commit- ment to social justice that largely drives their civic activism (Jelen, 2003; Smidt et al., 2003).
In contrast, Evangelical Protestants tend to maintain more of an individualistic orientation than do Catholics and Mainline Protestants (Emerson & Smith, 2001; Hinojosa & Park, 2004). That is, white Evangelical Protestants place greater emphasis than do others on the freewill given to individuals by God to make decisions that can aide or hinder their social mobility (Emerson & Smith, 2001). Unlike Mainline Protestants and the USCCB, few Evangelical denominations maintain national or regional offices committed to eradicating poverty. Distinctions among white Christians in their approaches to poverty are apparent in Hinojosa and Park's (2004) study on denomina- tional differences in accounting for black poverty. Their study indicates that white Catholics and Mainline Protestants are more likely than are white Evangelicals to believe that blacks are disproportionately poor because they do not have access to quality educational systems or to racial discrimination. Conversely, white Evangelicals were more likely than were white non-Evangelicals to believe that blacks are poor because they do not try hard enough.
In contrast to white churches, black churches associated with historically black denominations tend to maintain similar cultural orientations in assessing poverty in the U.S. Sandra Barnes's national studies of black churches suggest that virtu- ally no denominational differences exist in the commitment of black congregations affiliated with historically black denomi- nations to a prophetic theology (Barnes, 2004; 2005). McDaniel's (2003) study of black clergy affiliated with the historically black protestant denominations of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) and Church of God in Christ (COGIC) reached similar
100 Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
conclusions. His study indicates that vast majorities of both AME and COGIC clergy recognized that the pervasiveness of black poverty called for government bodies providing health care for the uninsured, helping poor blacks, and addressing unemployment.
While intra-group distinctions among white Protestant Churches exist in their cultural approaches to understanding poverty, strong inter-racial differences also persist. That is, Hinojosa and Park (2004) found that even when blacks and whites affiliate with similar denominational bodies, blacks were more likely to believe that blacks are disproportionately poor due to structural forms of inequality, such as racially unequal access to a quality education. Conversely, when accounting for denominational affiliation, whites were more likely than were blacks to believe that black poverty is a result of blacks not trying hard enough. While the above study is confined to assessments of black poverty, blacks are more likely than any other ethnic group to be poor and to live in poor communities (Bishaw, 2005). Moreover, their study points to alternate cul- tural approaches to assessing the causes of concentrated and inter-generational poverty among the most social-economical- ly disadvantaged ethnic group in the U.S. It is conceivable that the differing cultural approaches in understanding poverty along racial lines inform the social service programs that black and white congregations provide.
The Social Service Efforts of Asian and Latino Churches
It is not at all clear how individual versus structural cultural toolkits influence the social service delivery efforts of majority Asian and majority Latino congregations. The immigrant status of Latinos and Asians is a key factor that distinguishes their congregations from those of black and white Americans. To be clear, Asian and Latino Americans are both ethnically diverse. In the 2000 Census, Asian Americans identified with twenty- five different Asian ethnic groups and Latinos identified with twenty-three different Latino ethnic groups. Nonetheless, a plurality of Asians and Latinos are first generation immigrants to the U.S.: forty percent of Latinos and sixty-nine percent of Asians are first generation immigrants (Lien, Pei-te, Conway,
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Congregation-based Social Service Delivery 101
& Wong, 2004; Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2003). As communities of immigrants, predominantly Latino and predominantly Asian congregations are likely serve as assimilation centers in some capacity where newcomers can join friendship networks with those who share their native culture and language (Ebaugh & Chafetz, 2000). Such networks have the potential to provide in- dividuals with both emotional support and practical informa- tion, such as recommendations for jobs, accessing English as a second language classes, information about housing, and other quality of life information (Ebaugh & Chafetz, 2000; Espinosa, Elizondo, & Miranda, 2003; Cnaan, Wineburg, & Boddie, 1999; Conway & Wong, 2004). It is plausible that these informal forms of church-based social support take precedence to providing formal programs for the broader physical community that sur- rounds their congregations (Ebaugh & Chafetz, 2000). As such, majority Latino and majority Asian congregations may be less likely than majority black congregations to provide broader social services. This leads to the following hypotheses:
1. White congregations are less likely than are black congregations to provide social services with a longer-term impact on quality of life (i.e. education and job-skills training).
2. White congregations are more likely than are black congregations to provide programs that have a shorter-term impact on quality of life (i.e. food, thrift, and cash assistance).
3. Asian and Latino congregations are less likely than are black congregations to provide both longer- and shorter-term impact social services.
Carl S. Dudley and David A. Roozen of the Hartford Institute coordinated The Faith Communities Today Survey in 1999 and 2000. The project represents a joint venture of re- searchers and forty-two denominations and faith groups. Each religious group was responsible for surveying a repre- sentative sample of their congregations using a common core questionnaire. Once the findings from these surveys were
102 Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
combined into a single dataset, it contained information on a total of 14,301 congregations via surveys of the senior clergy. In total, the survey maintained a 57 percent response rate. For the purpose of this study, however, only predominantly black (e.g. 51% or more of the congregation is of this racial group), white, Asian, and Latino congregations are included in the sample. In total, there are 12,904 congregations in this study of which 78.5% are white, 17.85% are black, 1.99% are Latino, and 1.67% are Asian. Because of the all-group-aggregate data, weights have been applied to the data set to adjust for the otherwise disproportionate-to-denomination/group-strata size.
Dependent Variables Long-term benefit Congregation-based Social Service.
Congregation-based provision of long-term programs are assessed by two dichotomous questions. The questions ask senior clergy whether or not their congregations have directly provided or assisted in the provision of; tutoring/literacy pro- grams for children and teens and employment counseling/ placement/ training programs in the past twelve months.
Short-term benefit Congregation-based Social Service. Congregation-based provision of short-term programs are assessed by three dichotomous questions. The questions ask senior clergy whether or not their congregations have directly provided or assisted in the provision of the following: thrift store/thrift store donations, food pantry or soup kitchen, cash assistance to families or individuals programs.
Independent Variables Congregational Racial Composition. The racial composition of
congregations is a nominal measure of predominantly black, white, Asian, and Latino congregations. Black congregations serve as the comparison category.
Control Variables Because of the importance of congregational resources to
congregation-based civic activism (Billingsley, 1999; Chang et al., 1994; Cnaan, Wineburg, & Boddie, 1999; Light, 2001;
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Congregation-based Social Service Delivery 103
Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990; Tsitsos, 2003), this study controls for a number of commonly established congregational resources. These include the following: number of congregants, educa- tional status of congregants, paid staff, the financial health of congregations, the full time status of clergy, and the educa- tional status of clergy. Past studies have also found a connec- tion between the theological orientation of churches and their social service behavior (Barnes, 2005; Dudley & Roozen, 2001). To that end, the social justice orientation of congregations is also taken into account. Social justice is measured by a ten point index that encapsulates clergy beliefs on how well social justice characterizes their congregation and how often clergy preach on social justice. An odds ratio of over one indicates the positive impact a congregation's social justice orientation has on their social service delivery efforts. In order to reduce the impact of social-environmental contexts on the analyses, this study also controls for urbanicity, employment and edu- cational rate and the racial/ethnic representation within the census block on which the congregation is located. This study also controls for region.
While denomination affiliation provides an important in- dication of the agenda and mission of churches, it has been excluded from these analyses because of its high level of multi- collinearity with the racial characteristics of local congrega- tions. The denomination and race variables have an average variance inflation factor of 4.69. Additionally, congregations affiliated with Black Protestant denominations and predomi- nantly black congregations maintain a .911 factor loading on the same factor. Finally, no predominantly white, Asian, or Latino congregations affiliate with historically black denominations. As such, including both race and denominational background in the analyses compromises the validity of the results. For this reason, denominational affiliation has been excluded.
Missing values for all variables were replaced with an imputed regression score. Newly constructed variables were recoded to reflect the distribution of the original variables. The analyses presented below were not significantly or substan- tively altered by this technique.
104 Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
Bivariate Analyses Race and Social Service Delivery. In support of the first hy-
pothesis, the bivariate analyses presented in Table 1 suggest that black congregations are, on average, more likely than are white congregations to provide the longer-term impact pro- grams of tutoring and job training. There is some support for the second hypothesis, as white congregations are, on average, more likely to provide the shorter-term impact thrift and food assistance programs. Finally, there is qualified support for the third hypothesis of Asian and Latino congregations being less likely than black congregations to provide social services in general. Asian congregations are less likely than black congre- gations to provide tutoring, job-training, food and cash pro- grams. And, Latino congregations are less likely than black congregations to provide tutoring, job-training, and thrift programs.
Table 1. Relationship between Race/Ethnicity of Congregation and Provision of Social Service Programs: Chi-Square Analyses
Educational Job Thrift Food Cash
Total 27.34% 22.50% 57.36% 83.99% 83.67%
Black 61.70 44.03 52.32 75.64 85.11
White 19.63** 17.40** 58.99** 86.66** 83.54
Asian 22.33** 24.19** 53.02 59.07** 75.35**
Latino 27.63** 29.57** 42.02** 74.32 82.88
N= 12,904 12,904 12,904 12,904 12,904 *<.05 **<.01
Note: two-tailed sig. test is comparing black to non-black congregations
Multivariate Analyses Long-term Social Services: Education and Job-Training. As
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Congregation-based Social Service Delivery 105
Table 2. Relationship between Race/Ethnicity of Congregation and Congregation- based Long-Term Social Service Programs: Odds Ratio Converted from Logit Regression
Educational Job Training Tutoring
Race of Congregation
0.226 0.287 White Congregation (0.019)*- (0.026)'*
0.300 0.430 Latino Congregation (0.052)* (0.076)*
0.245 0.442 Asian Congregation (0.047)* (0.085)**
1.262 1.199 Social Justice Orientation (0.020)* (0.019)..
1.090 0.871 Clergy Education (0.036)** (0.029)**
Full Time Status of Clergy#
1.036 1.373Full Time/Works Another Job (0.103) (0.141)*
1.447 5.352Part Time Clergy (0.101)** (0.365)**
1.264 0.819No Full Time Clergy (0.085)" (0.067)*
1.301 1.440Number of Congregants (0.028)* (0.034)**
1.066 1.101 Proportion of Poor Congregants (0.022) (0.024)
1.002 1.010 Financial Health of Congregation (0.029) (0.033)
1.320 1.174Paid Staff (0.044)** (0.041)**
Urbanicity 1.192 1.223(0.034)** (0.038)"
1.027 1.125 Employment Rate in Census Track (.057 1.125
Educational Status in Census Track 1.036 1.040(0.026) (0.028)
1.034 1.034 Proportion of Blacks in Census (0.012)* (0.013)*
0.968 0.948 Proportion of Hispanics in Census 0.022 0.948(0.022) (0.022)*
0.972 0.875 Proportion of Asians in Census 0.068 0.062(0.068) (0.062)
Standard errors in parentheses
*<.05 **<.01 (two-tailed sig- nificance test)
#Full Time Clergy is the comparison category for Full Tune Status of Clergy.
106 Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
Table 2. Relationship between Race/Ethnicity of Congregation and Congregation- based Long-Term Social Service Programs: Odds Ratio Converted from Logit Regression (continued from previous page)
Educational Job Training
0.968 .872 Northeast (0.068) (0.067)
South 1.236 0.987 (0.079)** (0.068)
West 1.233 2.224 (0.094)" (0.170)"
0.902 0.966 Other Region (0.172) (0.195)
Observations 12,904 12,904
Standard errors in parentheses
(two-tailed *<.05 **<.01 significance
##Rest of the Country is the comparison category for Region
in Table 1, the multivariate analyses presented in Table 2 pro- vides support for the first hypothesis by suggesting that, all things being equal, white congregations are nearly one-quarter and .29 times as likely as are black congregations to provide tutoring and job-training programs respectively. In support of the fourth hypothesis, Latino congregations are .30 and .43 times as likely as are black congregations to respectively provide such programs. Similarly, Asian congregations are roughly one-quarter and .44 times as likely as are black con- gregations to provide tutoring and job-training programs. In sum, all non-black congregations are less likely than are black congregations to provide long-term social services. These anal- yses also indicate that congregational resources, social justice ideology, and the social demographic characteristics of the communities in which congregations are located are positively associated with their provision of academic tutoring and job- training programs.
Multivariate Analyses: Short-term Programs: Thrift Programs, Food, and Cash
In large support of the third hypothesis, white congrega- tions are nearly three and one and a half times more likely
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Congregation-based Social Service Delivery 107
Table 3. Relationship between Race/Ethnicity of Congregation and Congregation- based Short-Term Social Service Programs: Odds Ratio Converted from Logit Regression
Thrift Food Cash Race of Congregation
1.519 2.815 0.846 White Congregation (0.114)** (0.268)* (0.086)
0.819 1.508 1.238 Latino Congregation (0.124) (0.272)' (0.250)
1.153 0.510 0.609 Asian Congregation (0.186) (0.090)** (0.122)*
1.128 1.123 1.006 Social Justice Orientation (0.015)* (0.020)* (0.018)
1.093 1.249 0.877 Clergy Education (0.028)* (0.042)" (0.030)*" Full Time Status of Clergy#
0.907 0.812 1.152 Full Time/Works Another Job (0.070) (0.075)* (0.122)
0.971 0.727 0.790 Part Time Clergy (0.054) (0.054)* (0.058)*
0.469 0.471 0.332 No Full Time Clergy (0.025)** (0.033)" (0.022)"
1.230 1.332 1.459 Number of Congregants (0.022)* (0.035)" (0.038)**
0.991 0.992 1.020 Proportion of Poor Congregants (0.017) (0.022) (0.023)
1.051 0.987 1.184 Financial Health of Congregation (0.024)* (0.032) (0.035)*