Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Marcus L Britton

Committee Members

Esther D Chan, Aki Roberts, Rebecca H Konkel


Crime, Neighborhoods, Religion, Religious Spaces


While prior research has examined how measures of religion such as religious adherence are associated with crime, inconsistent results surrounding the strength and direction of the association have emerged. Additionally, less research has focused on the extent to which the mere presence of religious institutions predicts criminological outcomes. Drawing on social control theory, social disorganization theory, ecological religion, and complex religion, this study aims to contribute to existing research by examining the extent to which places of worship within urban neighborhoods in a Midwestern landscape are associated with lower rates of crime, and how this association may vary depending on the neighborhood’s racial makeup and levels of socioeconomic disadvantage. Findings from spatial autoregressive models differ across religious traditions and denominations. Catholic churches are negatively associated with violent and property crime, and this association is more pronounced for predominantly Black neighborhoods regarding violent crime. Black Protestant churches are positively associated with violent and property crime. Mainline Protestant churches are positively associated with violent crime. Jewish places of worship are positively associated with crime, and Mormon churches are negatively associated with crime. Findings illuminate the importance of addressing the local-level effects of places of worship, considering how social, racial, and geographic characteristics inform these effects, and exploring how the institutional capacities of places of worship to enact informal social control vary by religious traditions and denominations.

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