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Soc Sci Res. 2013 Mar;42(2):331-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.09.011. Epub 2012 Oct 6.

Religion, networks, and neighborliness: The impact of religious social networks on civic engagement.

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The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth College, 35 Centerra Parkway, Lebanon, NH 03766, United States. Electronic address:


A substantial literature has found that religiosity is positively related to individuals' civic engagement and informal helping behavior. Concurrently, social networks as sources of information and encouragement have been suggested as the mechanism underlying phenomena including successful job searches, improved health and greater subjective well-being. In this paper we use data from the Portraits of American Life Study (PALS) to examine whether religiously based social networks explain the well-established relationship between religion and civic engagement. We test potential mechanisms including beliefs, affiliation, and social networks, and we find that having a strong network of religious friends explains the effect of church attendance for several civic and neighborly outcomes. We suggest this phenomenon may exist in other, non-religious, spheres that also produce strong friendship networks.

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