Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Studies Specific to Low-Income Populations

07/10/2009

Using the methodology detailed in Section 1, we identified 10 studies that explore the role of religiosity/spirituality and substance use in low-income populations. Of these studies, 9 are quantitative, and 1 is qualitative. The identified studies have been published since 2000 with the majority of them published within the last four years. The main outcomes of interest in the identified studies include smoking and substance use in pregnancy, treatment-seeking behaviors, drug use among adolescents and young adults, smoking abstinence, alcohol and drug addiction severity, alcohol intoxication, drug use and reuse of drug paraphernalia among addicted populations, and protective factors used to avoid the initiation of drug use.

Of the 10 studies included in the current review, each has a unique definition for low-income status and uses different measures of assessment for religiosity, making comparisons across studies challenging.

In two of the studies, there is no information provided about how low-income status is determined. In these cases, the authors indicate that the samples are low-income and recruited from an urban setting. The majority of studies define low-income status based on the type of housing or the communities in which the sample resided.

Three of these studies used multidimensional religiosity scales to assess religiosity whereas the remaining seven studies use one-, two-, or three-item measurements of religiosity, primarily assessing organizational (church attendance) and subjective religiosity (how important religion is to the participant) dimensions. The multidimensional scales include the spirituality perspective scale, which is designed to capture spiritual views; the spiritual well-being scale, which provides an overall measure of the perception of spiritual quality of life; and the spiritual involvement and beliefs scale, which assesses both spiritual and religious practices and beliefs across a wide variety of religious/spiritual traditions. The majority of quantitative studies use either single-item measures of religiosity or two and three items relating to religiosity that are analyzed and reported individually in the findings. Church attendance is the most prevalent single-item measure of religiosity.

Three of the studies included in this topical review used data from a nationally representative sample of the population. These data are derived from the National Youth Survey, the Survey of Inner-City Black Youth, and Welfare, Children and Families. The data from the latter two sources focus on low-income populations. The study that used data from the National Youth Survey limited the data and analysis to a population of poor urban youth. The remaining studies used local data from convenience samples.

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