Is West Virginia A Religious Void? An Investigation
A recent map depicting levels of religious adherence across the United States appeared to show that West Virginia has a very low level of religious adherence, similar to some areas of the West coast and New England. Using individual-level survey data we investigate if this is an accurate portrayal of religion in the state. We find that West Virginia is more similar to states presented as highly religious in the map, such as Texas and Alabama, when looking at measures of individual belief, behavior, and belonging. Further examination of the affiliations of West Virginia residents suggest that a high rate of belonging to independent or unaffiliated congregations is likely responsible for the undercounting of religious adherence in the state. We conclude by considering the challenges of measuring religion in poor, rural communities, especially when the culture and history of those communities has not favored strong organizational ties.
KeywordsAdherence Measurement West Virginia Belief Belonging Independent Non-denominational
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