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


The search phase began by identifying expert scholars in the outcome areas around which the report is organizedmarriage and relationships, parenting, youth, mental and physical health, substance use, and crime and violence. These experts were asked to help identify the seminal works and recent or ongoing studies (not necessarily specific to the low-income population) in the topic area of their expertise. After this information was collected from experts, project team members identified and reviewed these works to create a detailed explanation of the overarching/guiding models, hypotheses, and processes at work in a given topic area. Next, formal searches of subject terms were performed in 10 databases of published, peer-reviewed articles.

Web site searches for publications and other unpublished materials were also conducted. The list included Web sites of relevant foundations, faith-based organizations, and policy think tanks. The results of all searches were organized and stored in a central Refworks database, a Web-based bibliographic management tool.

Database Searches

We searched 10 established social science research databases: PubMed, EBSCO (including PsychINFO), Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, Social Services Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, JSTOR, National Criminal Justice Reference Service, and Economics Literatures (ECONLIT). These databases include indexes of thousands of peer-reviewed publications across a range of academic disciplines from health to economics. The Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) database, which catalogues information on federally funded scientific project grants, was also searched.

Search Terms

In each of the social science research databases, subject heading searches were performed.  Because subject heading terms vary by database, a base list of terms was developed as a guide for selecting subject heading terms across databases. The base list included the following terms:  low income, poverty, poor, economic disadvantage, relig*, spiritual*, and faith*. The * denotes all possible variations using the root of that term (e.g., relig* captures religiosity, religion, religiousness, etc.). In instances where a database lacked a subject heading that exactly matched a base list term, the most closely related subject heading term was selected.

To perform searches, a religiosity-related and a low-incomerelated subject heading term were crossed until all possible combinations were searched. For example, PubMed was searched using predefined Medical Subject Heading (MESH) terms. For income-related terms, MESH terms "Poverty" or Social Class were used. For religiosity-related terms, "Religion" or Spirituality was used in the searches. Search parameters called for articles that included at least one of the two religiosity-related subject heading terms (Religion or Spirituality) and at least one of the low-incomerelated subject heading terms (Poverty or Social Class).

Other Key Search Parameters

Studies available since 1988. In consultation with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), the focus was narrowed to studies made available over the past 20 years in order to identify studies with the most policy relevance. The cutoff date for inclusion was November 2008.

Studies that focus on U.S. populations and subpopulations (and were published in English-language publications). While international studies were available, religiosity and its associations with various outcomes can vary across region and culture. As a result, it was determined that the U.S. population had the most policy relevance for the purpose of this review.

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