Religion and Americans’ Fear of Crime in the 21st Century

Philip Schwadel, Amy L. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Fear of crime is not only a reflection of the prevalence of crime and victimization but also varies by individual and social characteristics such as gender and social integration. Religion is another attribute that influences worldviews and structures social interactions, and thus may affect fear of crime. Purpose: Given the importance of religion in American life and the micro and macro costs associated with fear of crime, we examine the associations between various aspects of religion (i.e. religious tradition, service attendance, prayer, biblical literalism, born-again identity, and changes in religious affiliation) and Americans’ fear of crime. Methods: We use nationally representative survey data collected between 2004 and 2018 and binary logistic regression models with relevant controls. Results: Partial models each with a single measure of religion and control variables show that service attendance, prayer, biblical literalism, born-again identity, and transitioning from no religious affiliation to having a religious affiliation are all positively associated with fear of crime while mainline Protestant affiliation is negatively associated with fear of crime. In full models that include all the religion variables, however, born-again identification is the only religion measure with a robust association with fear of crime, though this association appears to decline in magnitude over time. Changes in religious affiliation and prayer have more moderate, positive associations with fear of crime in the full models. Conclusions and Implications: Religion appears to influence fear of crime through worldviews and both static and dynamic identities, particularly the born-again Christian identity. With the born-again label becoming more prevalent, and the nation becoming more polarized, fear of crime may remain high, regardless of the level of crime and victimization; and heightened fear of crime can have negative consequences for individuals and communities, such as the potential negative repercussions for born-again Christians’ mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-161
Number of pages17
JournalReview of Religious Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Attitudes
  • Born-again
  • Crime
  • Fear
  • Religious change
  • Religious tradition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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