June 17, 2003
The Life Cycle Institute of The Catholic University of America today released the findings of a major three-year study of immigrant worship communities in the Washington, D.C., area that will inform religious leaders and policymakers about the role religion plays for immigrants acclimating to life in the United States.
The study found that immigrant worship communities generally are more active in meeting their members’ social needs than the average American congregation.
The CUA study, titled “Religion and the Civic and Social Incorporation of New Immigrants,” is one of seven studies funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts for its national Gateway Cities project. The Pew-funded studies look at the ways that congregations contribute to the social and civic incorporation of immigrants in the seven U.S. cities with the highest entry rate for immigrants. The gateway cities are: Chicago, the District of Columbia, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and San Francisco.
The study’s findings are particularly valuable as a reflection of the period from 1990 to 2000 when the United States experienced the highest level of immigration in its history, said CUA’s Dean Hoge, professor of sociology and a principal investigator in the study.
“The value of this study is that it provides data about the role of churches in the empowerment of immigrants as they assimilate themselves into American life,” said Hoge, also director of the Life Cycle Institute. “The empowerment of immigrants is an important issue for us as a nation.”
The Life Cycle Institute released the findings at a conference Tuesday for representatives of faith-based communities and social service agencies.
The CUA study has produced “an unprecedented body of information” about how religious institutions are serving today’s immigrants, said Associate Professor of Politics Michael W. Foley, also a principal investigator in the study.
“Immigrant worship communities are as diverse as the new immigrants themselves,” Foley says. “They range from small, intimate Protestant churches to large mosques and Catholic parishes providing a variety of formal and informal programs to their members and neighbors, from multicultural Lutheran congregations to imposing Hindu temples.”
The CUA study explored the role of churches, mosques, temples and other local worship
communities in the lives of Chinese, Korean, Salvadoran and West African Christians,
Hindus and Sikhs, and Muslims. The extent of the impact of immigrant worship communities depended, in part, on the size and the affluence of their congregations, said Hoge.
Certain immigrant worship communities had greater similarities to their American counterparts than others. Some of the more affluent immigrant congregations, including Korean and Chinese churches and large Hindu temples and Sikh congregations or gurudwaras, tend to contribute to blood drives and food programs for the homeless in a way that resembles middle-class American churches.
In the first year of the study, the CUA investigators conducted a census of all churches, mosques and temples serving immigrants from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, South Asia, the Middle East, West Africa and El Salvador now living in the Washington, D.C., area.
Between 2000 and 2003, six project field workers observed the teachings, programs and social life of 22 of the worship communities and talked with hundreds of leaders and participants. The study investigators also interviewed leaders of 200 of the faith groups about their social programs and ties to the broader community. Researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with the staff of non-profit organizations that work with immigrants or immigrant worship communities.
MEDIA: To receive copies of the study findings or arrange interviews with Foley and Hoge,
contact Chris Harrison or Victor Nakas in the Office of Public Affairs, at 202-319-5600.
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