Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Closing the Knowledge Gap for the Low-Income Population


Policy-Relevant Topic Areas Covered in this Report

  • Healthy Marriage and Family Relationships
  • Parental Involvement and Child Development
  • Mental and Physical Health
  • Substance Abuse
  • Crime

To help close the knowledge gap about how religiosity and spirituality affect outcomes in low-income families, this report provides a comprehensive review of published and unpublished empirical research literature in several areas of current policy and program interest, including healthy marriage and family relationships, parental involvement and child development, mental and physical health, substance abuse, and crime.

This review targeted articles published in peer-reviewed journals during the past 20 years that focused on the U.S. population. Because there are a very limited number of empirical studies that focus on religiosity effects solely for the low-income population, the search strategy was widened to include working papers, conference papers, and policy research studies. While this strategy is intentionally broad, the study inclusion criteria for this review are narrowly targeted to include religiosity, the low-income population, and behavioral or attitudinal outcomes that are relevant to current public policy goals and program objectives.

The narrowly defined inclusion criteria eliminated several groups of studies. For example, evaluations of faith-based social services that do not include measures of low-income program participants religiosity are excluded from this report. Also excluded are studies on general populations that do not focus on comparisons of how religiosity effects differ between high- and low-income populations. Studies that focus on the determinants of religiosity, rather than the effects of religiosity on behavioral outcomes, are also not included.  And there are a host of studies conducted on populations outside of the United States that are beyond the scope of this report.

In sum, this report provides one of the first assessments of the state of the research on the effects of religiosity and spirituality on behavioral outcomes for the economically disadvantaged population in the United States.

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