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Anglo Evangelicals in Southern California

The growth of Evangelicals was first noticed in the 1970s (Kelly 1977). The influence of the Christian Right as a political force that began with the Reagan election in 1980 resonates in the twenty-first century. As of this writing, states

CHART 17.5 Religious intermarriage. White, non-Hispanic (Anglo) respondents.

TABLE 17.1 Religion by region. Anglo Evangelicals

Area and Calif, region

Evangelical

Protestant

Mainline Protestant

Roman Catholic

All others

Total (%)

Los Angeles

17

21

16

46

100

County

Other SoCal

24

22

18

37

100

Bay area and north

11

21

23

45

100

Other NorCai

30

18

18

35

100

Central Valley

40

19

13

28

100

West-Not calif

25

20

13

43

100

South

45

23

13

19

100

Midwest

29

26

25

20

100

Northeast

13

22

39

26

100

All Anglo

30

23

22

25

100

Respondents

Pc.oi.

with large Evangelical populations have recently passed strong anti-LGBT and anti-abortion laws. Moreover, Evangelical churches are “strict,” making the most demands on their adherents (lannaccone 1994). To what extent have Anglo Evangelicals in Los Angeles, Southern California, and/or California been influenced by where they live?

Anglo Evangelicals were most prevalent in the South where they accounted for almost half (45%) of all Southern respondents in 2007 as compared with 30% of all Anglos nationwide (Table 17.1). Anglo Evangelicals were proportionately represented in the Midwest (29% of Anglo respondents in the South were Evangelical as compared with 30% of all Anglo respondents in the Religious Landscape Survey). If not numerically over-represented in the Midwest, however, Anglo Evangelicals have outsized cultural impact in this region. At the 2017 Republican National Convention Vice President Mike Pence, who had previously served as Governor of Indiana declared “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” Kansas has banned the teaching of evolution in its public schools, more than once, most recently in 2013. Toward the end of 2017, Christian Conservative Minnesota Congresswoman, Michelle Bachman, declared that she would wait for a sign from God as to whether she should run for the Senate in 2018.

The Central Valley provides an excellent case study for the California effect on evangelicals because it has deep Anglo roots in South and is also heavily Evangelical. John Steinbeck immortalized the plight of “Okie” Dustbowl migrants to California in The Grapes of Wrath, as did Woody Guthrie in his song, “Dough Re Me” in which he advises, “... you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.” Historian Darren Dochuk (2010) has documented the ongoing religious and political influence of Southern Dustbowl migrants who came to California from Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas in the 1930s. The Dustbowl

TABLE 17.2 Birth cohort and median age for Anglo Evangelicals

Region/ sub-region

Birth Cohort

Al'g-Age (years)

Silent (born before 1946) (%)

Boomers (1946-1964)

(°/°)

CenX (1965-1979) (%)

Millenial (1980-) (%)

Total (%)

Los

30

34

20

16

100

51.7

Angeles

SoCal

23

42

25

9

100

51.2

Ring

Bay Area

28

46

19

7

100

49.7

Other

20

31

33

16

100

49.6

NorCai

Central

27

29

20

25

100

48.9

Valley

West

23

36

27

15

100

48.7

South

26

37

26

11

100

47.7

Midwest

25

37

26

12

100

47.4

Northeast

26

40

24

11

100

46.0

All USA

25

37

26

12

100

49.1

/>=<0.05.

migration left its cultural mark in California’s contribution to Nashville. Alvis “Buck” Owens’ family left Texas in 1937 and by the mid-1950s he had established “the Bakersfield Sound’ in country music. Merle Haggard’s parents left Oklahoma for Oildale, near Bakersfield, during the Depression, a migration he would drew upon for “California Cotton Fields,” a song that describes of the hardships faced by the “Okie” migrant workers in California. The heavily rural Central Valley and “other NorCai” region are also heavily Evangelical: 40% of the Anglo respondents in the Central Valley identified as Evangelical as did 30% in the largely rural “Other Northern California” sub-region. By contrast, only 11% of respondents in the Bay Area and 17% in Los Angeles County identified this way. The Midwest and South, along with the Central Valley and Other Northern California sub-regions, then, provide excellent comparison geographies by which to identify a Southern California influence on Evangelicals, starting with demographic differences and moving on to behaviors and beliefs.

Demographic differences

A number of studies have established demographic differences among religious groups, starting with Neibhur in 1929 (Niebuhr 1929/2004). These differences were still evident in the late twentieth century (Smith 2005, Kosmin and Keysar 2006) and into the twenty-first (Pew 2008). This analysis takes a different approach by asking if there are differences by region and sub-region within major religious

TABLE 17.3 Educational attainment for Anglo Evangelicals

HS or

less (%)

Some college or tech/trade school (%)

College graduate or more (%)

Total (%)

Region/sub-

37

27

37

100

region

Los Angeles

36

37

27

100

SoCal Ring

47

27

26

100

Bay Area

51

30

19

100

Other NorCai

38

38

24

100

Central Valley

43

35

22

100

West

54

26

20

100

South

52

29

18

100

Midwest

55

24

22

100

Northeast

52

28

20

100

All USA

52

28

20

100

Pc.oi.

groupings. Table 17.2 presents an age breakdown of Anglo Evangelicals by birth cohort, along with average age. Anglo Evangelicals are the oldest in Los Angeles with a mean age of 51.7 years, followed by the SoCal Ring (mean age of 51.2). Los Angeles has the highest percentage of Anglo Evangelicals in the Silent Generation at 30%, compared with 25% for Anglo Evangelicals overall. These differences are not great and were statistically significant only at the P=0.05 level, the lowest generally acceptable in social science research. Anglo Evangelicals in Los Angeles County stand out as being by far the most educated, with 37% completing college as compared to 20% nationwide (Table 17.3).

Marriage is strongly encouraged within the Evangelical community. The Evangelical based organization, Focus on the Family,2 for example, strongly promotes marriage and their website offers numerous publications for how to strengthen marriage within a Christian context. Anglo Evangelicals in Los Angeles County are distinctly non-normative with regard to marital status (Table 17.4): they are the least likely to be currently married (48%) and the most likely to never have been married (26%). Their high percentage never married is not explained by age, since they are the oldest group of Anglo Evangelicals as shown in Table 17.1. Nor is it explained by education; the percentage never-married remains highest for Anglo Evangelicals in Los Angeles County in all three categories of educational attainment (data not shown). They are influenced by the surrounding culture with regard to norms around marriage.

 
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