Journal Article

Why Evangelicals Like Wal-Mart: Education, Region, and Religious Group Identity

Rebekah Peeples Massengill

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 72, issue 1, pages 50-77
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online December 2010 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srq078
Why Evangelicals Like Wal-Mart: Education, Region, and Religious Group Identity

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Status gains made by evangelicals in recent decades create new factions within the evangelical movement, potentially distinguishing college-educated evangelicals from their less-educated counterparts in their attitudes on issues that separate other Americans along the dividing lines of social class. This paper tests the influence of evangelical identity upon a particular social issue by investigating Americans’ attitudes about Wal-Mart—a company that has historically appealed to evangelicals but not higher-status Americans. Using data from a 2005 survey of roughly 1,400 Americans, I find that self-identified evangelicalism is consistently associated with approval of the controversial retailer, while college education is linked to disapproval of Wal-Mart. However, the same effect does not persist among evangelicals, for whom college education has no consistent, significant effect on the odds of judging Wal-Mart unfavorably. I suggest that education may function differently for evangelicals than for the larger population, offsetting the liberalizing effects that are typically assumed to accompany attending college.

Keywords: education; evangelical protestantism; popular culture

Journal Article.  9964 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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