Religious Capital and Addressing Latino Immigrant Health Inequalities in the U.S

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:06 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Oral Presentation
Ephraim SHAPIRO , Columbia University
Background: There is much evidence linking participation in an organization with health outcomes, more than the relationship of faith outside of a religious organizational context with health. For example, church attendance is the measure of religiosity most of often linked with better health outcomes.   While some attribute the religion-health connection to social capital, there is insufficient attention to how aspects of religion itself can also be a resource contributing to the health of members of a religious community through religious capital.  While it has primarily been used in other contexts, religious capital can be an important resource for health. There is a paucity of both theory and evidence, however, in understanding how religious capital may be related to positive health outcomes and, in particular, how it can affect inequalities for vulnerable populations such as immigrants.

Objectives/results: To fill this gap in the literature, this study draws from theoretical concepts in the field of sociology to examine whether religious involvement is associated with better health status and health behaviors among Latino immigrants, with potential to reduce health inequalities through increased religious capital.  The study will describe in detail the theoretical framework for religious capital, with relevant constructs explained. Quantitative evidence supportive of the theory will be brought from multivariate analyses the author performed of over 1000 Latino immigrants from the randomized New Immigrant Survey (NIS), controlling for demographics, as well as from a review of the literature to support the study’s theses. 

Conclusion:  Religious involvement can be related to better Latino immigrant health because of religious capital found among churchgoers.  As a result, opportunities may exist to leverage widespread church-going already taking place by Latino immigrants to reduce inequalities by creating faith-based interventions which draw upon this religious capital.