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Objectives

The objectives of this study are to investigate the traits that clients find important in professional social service providers, comparing confidence in client management skills (friendliness, experience, and knowledge) to desire for demographic characteristics (being of the same race and religion).

Methods

To accomplish this task, we use multiple regression to analyze results of the Lehigh Valley Trust Survey of low-income recipients of social services.

Results

While most respondents find the professional traits important, there is significant variation in whether respondents consider demographic characteristics to be important. We find that having a provider of the same race is very important for African Americans and Hispanics, while having a provider with similar religious beliefs is extremely important for evangelical Protestants. Other predictive variables for homophilous preferences in race and religion are age, mobility, and education.

Conclusions

Professional skills corresponding to organizational position are important to most people, but specific demographic groups prioritize racial, ethnic, and religious homophily. While we suggest some possible explanations (perceived or actual discrimination and cultural concordance), further research is needed to determine the causes.