Moral Communities and the Impact of Individual Religiosity on White Collar Crime

Steven Stack, Wayne State University

There has been debate over the effect of individual religiosity on criminality in the context of moral communities marked by low and high levels of group religiosity. Most of the bi-level research on this issue has been based on limited samples, and ranges in religiosity. Typically research is done within a single nation. The present study extends the analysis to several dozen nations using the World Values Surveys for 1990. White collar crime predispositions of over 45,000 individuals constitute the dependent variable. Controls are introduced from alternative theoretical perspectives including social bonds, economic strain, and demographic factors. The results of a multiple regression analysis indicate that individual level religiosity lowers criminality more in nations with low levels of religiosity. The results support the notion of writers such as Tittle and Welch that religion will have its strongest effect on the individual when societal institutions are weak. The results offer less support for the moral communities perspective of writers such as Stark which contends that the impact of individuals' religiosity needs to be multiplied by societal levels of religiosity in order to have its full impact on criminality.

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Updated 05/20/2006