Religion and Social Inequality
Social science research continues to identify significant patterns between social class and religious denominations. Historically those denominations with the mostaffluent members and the highest social status have been the mainline liberal churches, such as the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, and the Congregationalists.
The earliest members of some of these churches in the United States were immigrants from Britain. who were also instrumental in establishing the U.S. government and the capitalist economy. Since that time, people with high levels of economic and political power have been closely linked to these determinations; however, members of these denominations also come from the middle and working classes and from minority groups.
Although the Presbyterian church is tYPically characterized as middle class and the Baptist church as working class and lower income. both of these denominations also have members from a wide diversity of income levels (Kosmin and Lachman, 1993). According to some analysts, the socioeconomic position of families that adhere to conservative religious beliefs may sometimes be lower because traditional gender roles assign women to the home and men to the workplace, thus limiting the family's income, as contrasted with religions that do not discourage women from working outside the home (Kosmin and Lachman, 1993). A comparison of different
denominations yields some infonnation on class and income differences, but a significant difference in race and class is seen in many central-city and suburban churches.