Tracking the "Other": Dynamics and Composition of "Other" Religions in the General Social Survey, 1973-1996
Posted on 25. May, 2009 by James Miller
|Title||Tracking the "Other": Dynamics and Composition of "Other" Religions in the General Social Survey, 1973-1996|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||1999|
|Journal||Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion|
Ethnic immigration, the rise of new religious movements, burgeoning religious individualism, and the ascendance of the New Age have all been cited as responsible for a growing diversity of religious expressions in the United States. While each of these theses may have merit, little systematic inquiry has been brought to bear on the composition of the margins of the American religious economy. Further, there are serious questions about our ability to gauge the growth and composition of these diverse groups using extant data. In this paper, I examine patterns of growth and retention in the "Other" religions reported by respondents to the 1973-1996 General Social Survey. Using NORC tabulations not available in the GSS datafiles, I construct trends in affiliation with the diverse groups that comprise this category. My findings reveal considerable growth in the "other" religions, however about half of the growth in this category is a function of growing numbers of Christians being erroneously placed in this group. I revise the overall distributions of religious affiliations to take into account Christian misclassification, and this yields better estimates of the proportion of Americans who identify with non-Judeo Christian faiths.