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“Practical Divine Influence”: Socioeconomic Status and Belief in the Prosperity Gospel


Scott Schieman, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, 725 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5S2J4 Canada. E-mail:


The “prosperity gospel” is an understudied feature of the religious landscape of the United States. Little is known about the social patterning of prosperity gospel beliefs. We focus on two core dimensions of socioeconomic status (SES)—education and income—as potential influences. Our analyses of data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's 2006 Survey of Pentecostals produce three findings. First, education and income have negative and mostly independent associations with prosperity gospel beliefs. Second, SES-based patterns remain after accounting for other attributes of the religious role. Third, while most education-based differences are contingent upon the attributes of the religious role, these contingencies are not replicated for income-based differences. These observations reinforce the long-standing claim that SES plays a pivotal—and complex—role in the social patterning of religious beliefs.

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