Motivating Civic Engagement: In-Group versus Out-Group Service Orientations among Mexican Americans in Religious and Nonreligious Organizations

Publication Date:
Jan 2013
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Here, we argue for the need to examine the particular contribution of religion to immigrant civic life by comparing a religious and a nonreligious ethnic organization. Specifically, we compare the justifications a Mexican Catholic Church (MCC) provides immigrants for civic service and the focal recipients of this service to those provided by a Mexican ethnic organization (MEO). Our findings show that each organization provides different rationales for service, while offering similar services. Drawing on Putnam's ideas about bridging and bonding capital, we show that MCC has the ideological tools for bridging outside of one's ethnic group, but ultimately experiences a disconnect between its broad mission statement and particular service recipients. Conversely, MEO is able to align its services with its stated mission to reach Mexicans, promoting bonding capital in both mission and practice. Results have implications for research on the approach to and consequences of religiously based appeals for immigrant civic engagement.


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