Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. CONCLUSION


Implementation of sound social service programs depends on rigorous evaluation and research to validate the effectiveness of initiatives. Given the investment and growth in faith-based and neighborhood partnerships over the past decade, the results and outcomes achieved from these efforts are increasingly relevant for policymakers and practitioners. Understanding how religiosity and spirituality affect behavioral outcomes is an important step in developing logic models to help guide program design and evaluation in this area. This literature review is one of the first to examine the state of the research on the effect of religiosity and spirituality on behavioral outcomes for the economically disadvantaged population in the United States. For programs targeting poor populations, the findings from this review suggest that the results from religiosity research focused on the low-income population can better inform this process.

Religiosity research targeting this population is in the beginning stages. Consequently, this review required a broad sweep of the literature rather than a narrower focus on more rigorously designed studies. Thus, the report focuses on six behavioral outcomes that are the subject of current policy and programmatic focus: marriage and healthy relationships; parenting; child and youth development; mental and physical health; substance use; and violence and criminal behavior. (Two other outcome areas, homelessness and employment, were considered but excluded due to a low number of studies identified in these areas.) Each section of this report, representing one of these topical areas, summarizes the research studies for the general population and then describes the research studies specifically for the low-income population.

This section summarizes the results across the outcome areas and (1) reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the study methods and data sources, (2) synthesizes patterns that emerge from the findings, and (3) discusses research gaps and potential next steps for religiosity research focused on the low-income population. This summary is intended to help inform policymakers and practitioners about the existing religiosity knowledge base pertinent to low-income families and individuals. This knowledge will help to formulate the next phase of research and evaluation of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.

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