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Land, Kenneth C.; Deane, Glenn D.; & Blau, Judith R. (1991). Religious Pluralism and Church Membership: A Spatial Diffusion Model. American Sociological Review, 56, 237-249.


Recent empirical research on the effect of religious pluralism on church membership in the United States has produced contradictory findings. One study reported that religious pluralism had a positive effect on the prevalence of church membership, whereas another study reported a negative effect. Using county-level census data for 1910, 1920, and 1930, we find that religious diversity generally retards church membership. We also extend research on this topic. We introduce a measure that summarizes the effect of church adherence in surrounding counties on church adherence in a particular county. Examining the effects of a variety of social and economic conditions on church membership, we find that, in the early decades of this century, church participation was high in counties for which there are indications of social deprivation and marginality. Ethnic and religious diversity retard church membership and the positive impact of religious adherence elsewhere on a particular county's religious participation declines over time.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Sociological Review


Land, Kenneth C.
Deane, Glenn D.
Blau, Judith R.