Church Attendance, Social Capital, and Iowa Small Towns from 1994 to 2014

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2022-12
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Herbkersman, Cora
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Peters, David J
Krier, Daniel
Riney-Kehrberg, Pamela
Schweingruber, David
Zarecor, Kimberly
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Sociology
Abstract
For many years, churches have been important to rural communities. However, American church attendance has been falling in recent decades (Pew Research Center, 2019). Additionally, rural population overall has been declining in recent years. While these decreases have occurred, very little research has occurred in rural towns regarding church attendance in relation to overall community wellbeing. This research uses data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and the Iowa Small Towns Poll (ISTP) to identify differences between small, Iowan communities with different rates of church attendance. A typology is created based on church attendance rates in 1994 and change in church attendance rates between 1994 and 2014. It is found that communities with low and/or falling church attendance have lower rates of social capital, community attachment, civic engagement, and quality of life perceptions. This research did not examine causality, and therefore church attendance decline could either be a symptom of overall community decline, or one of the causes.
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