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Sunday, June 4, 2006

Unitarian Universalists in Mass.'s ten cultural regions.

Okay, amateur sociologists, here's an exercise I hope someone will have the time to try. (Trained sociologists, I'd like to hear from you, too, if you really do study this kind of thing.) Today's Globe divides up Massachusetts into ten roughly equal regions in terms of electoral influence and identifies key cultural trends as they show up in voting patterns. (Cambridge, naturally, is part of the region called the "Left Fields.") What interests me about this cultural-political breakdown is that Massachusetts also has the largest number of Unitarian Universalist congregations in the U.S., and so it would seem that we could map those congregations onto this regional map to ask a series of questions:

How many congregations are in each region? How many members are claimed by those congregations? Does the proportion of Unitarian Universalists in a region reflect in any meaningful way the number of, say, Democrats in the region? To what extent do congregational cultures reflect and challenge the predominant cultural ethos in their areas? How many congregations are small, medium, or large in each region? Wouldn't it be fun to find out?

One premise of the article is that the regions reflect in microcosm some of the larger cultural divisions within the U.S. as a whole, although of course the whole state tilts a bit farther to the left within each region. So if we completed our Massachusetts study, we might have an hypothesis or two to apply to the county-by-county map Andy McIntire prepared showing 2004 presidential election results with the locations of UU congregations superimposed.

What do you need to jump in and play amateur sociologist here? Free registration at MassInc's CommonWealth magazine site will let you look at the full report, where additional maps show town boundaries. Here are current membership figures for Massachusetts UU congregations (click the "By State" button to get all the Mass. churches together). Unfortunately, you'll probably need the UUA Directory to locate the churches by ZIP code — but who needs to be that accurate? We're amateur sociologists! Let's just assume that the church accurately names the town it's in.

Any takers? Anyone? Anyone?

("The state I'm in: Politically, Massachusetts in really 10 states, not one," Robert David Sullivan, Boston Globe 6.4.06, reg req'd; "Shifting ground," Robert David Sullivan, CommonWealth Spring 2006, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 4 June 2006 at 3:40 PM

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June 6, 2006 09:56 AM | Permalink for this comment

Just wanted to let you know that if you want to link to the full article without having to log in you can use this url:


April 15, 2007 10:41 AM | Permalink for this comment

Worth comparing to the cultural region maps and the congregational membership information: Today's Boston Globe tracks the percentage of households in each Massachusetts town that earn more than $100,000 a year. There's also a series of interactive maps; here's the Boston metropolitan area map, with links at the bottom of the page to other regions.

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