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Abstract

The current study utilizes Swidler's (1986) cultural toolkit theory to explain racial/ethnic differences in American religious congregations' provision of social service programs. This study suggests that black Americans' reliance upon structural tools to assess poverty contributes to their congregations being more heavily involved than majority white congregations in the provision of social services that attempt to make a longer-term impact on community life (i.e. academic tutoring and job training). In contrast, white Americans' greater reliance upon individualistic tools to understand poverty arguably contributes to their congregations being more heavily involved in the provision of programs that have a shorter- term impact on community life (i.e. food, thrift, and shelter). While majority Latino congregations are less likely than are black congregations to provide longer-term impacting programs only, majority Asian congregations tend to be less heavily involved in the provision of both longer and shorter term impacting programs.

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