01: The achievement gap between white and minority students, as well as between children of high- and low-socioeconomic status, is considerably narrower in religious, mostly Christian, schools than in in public schools, according to a recent analysis. In an article in theInterdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (Vol. 3, 2007), William H. Jeynes of California State University finds that it is particularly in the case of African-American and Latino children who are religious and come from intact families when compared to white students where the achievement gap disappears.
Jeynes analyzes the National Education Longitudinal Study and finds that children in the lowest socioeconomic-status (SES) quartile who attend religious schools achieve at higher levels than do the children in the lowest SES quartile who attend public schools. In fact, children in the lowest SES quartile benefit from attending religious schools more than do students in the other SES quartiles. (http://www.religjournal.com/pdf/ijrr03003.pdf)
02: New research suggests that increasing percentages of Hispanics are dropping out of churches as they assimilate to American society. Those who identify themselves as secular are a small minority; but unlike many other secular Americans, many of the Hispanics say they were once religious, writes Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times (April 15).
Citing studies from the recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center, the article notes that eight percent of Latinos report no religion, similar to 11 percent of the general public. Of the Hispanics who claimed no religion, two-thirds said they had once been religious. Hispanics from Cuba were the most secular group (14 percent), followed by Central Americans (12 percent), Puerto Ricans and Dominicans (at 9 percent), and South Americans at eight percent.
Mexicans were the least likely to say they had no religion (at 7 percent). Another study by Keo Cavalcante of James Madison University also found a trend toward secularization among Hispanics. He notes that “When people get here they realize that maintaining that pro forma display of religiosity is not essential to doing well.”
03: A recent survey of American Buddhist organizations finds they are more diverse and more conventional than might be expected. The survey, conducted by Buster Smith of Baylor University among 231 Buddhist centers, found 31 different forms of Buddhism, with the most frequently selected being Pure Land, Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana and Soto Zen. Eleven percent of the centers identified with two or more Buddhist schools or movements, writes Smith in the Review of Religious Research (March).
The most common countries of origin of the centers were the United States, Japan and Vietnamese, while the most common languages were English, Japanese, and Vietnamese. In other ways there was more uniformity: most of the members represented the older segment of society (48 years-old and older). Most were also married. Smith also found that, contrary to stereotypes, 37.7 percent of the centers do not offer meditation sessions, and 21.2 percent do not offer formal religious services at all. Yet the large majority (77.6 percent) of the centers actively seek new members. .
04: Ukraine has consolidated as the only European example of the denominational competitive market model developed in the U.S, according to sociologist Jose Casanova. Twenty years after his first analysis of the Ukranian religious landscape, Casanova revisited the subject in a recent talk at the Hariman Institute of Columbia University, which RW attended.
Casanova asserted that Using 2004 data to support his findings, Casanova explained that Ukraine’s religious activity has not developed in the state church model, but under a pluralist pattern in which competition and acceptance of other churches have been the norm, as the state remains secular. This scheme, which originated in the U.S., has among its features the existence of formally equal and competing “denominations” that co-exist in a relatively free and open system.
While in Europe the model has usually been either that of one national Church symbolically linked with the nation, or that of two competing churches that are territorially based (usually Catholicism and Protestantism), Ukraine stands out as the closest case to the American model. As of 2004, the country had a total of 28,626 religious communities, 27,447 of which were Christian. Of these, 8,149 were Protestant, 4,203 were Catholic and 15,005 were Orthodox of some sort.
According to Casanova, the religious arena in Ukraine is one of the few countries in which civil associationism exists, based on community self- organization and a relative openness to difference. It is not that non-religious people are converting but that there are shifts within the religious community. There are neither overarching cleavages nor territorial boundaries that determine religious affiliation to the four major churches in Ukraine (Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Protestant).
Among the reasons for these similarities between Ukraine and the U.S. Casanova stressed the fact that the structural conditions at the time of their gaining independence were similar, and that there is a certain flexibility of identities in Ukraine that is unusual in Europe. Although Halychina (in Western Ukraine) seems to be the only region in which the competitive model fully works, Casanova stated that there is some competitive presence of all churches in all regions of the country.
— By Marisol Lopez Menendez, a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the New School for Social Research