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Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D. - Baylor University . Waco, TX, US

Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology, Graduate Program Director | Baylor University


Dr. Dougherty focuses on the impact of religion on other realms of social life such as community involvement, politics, and work






Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences loading image



Kevin Dougherty and Michael Ryan Baylor Connections


Dr. Dougherty is an award-winning teacher and active researcher. He teaches large sections of Introduction to Sociology almost every semester. At the graduate level, he teaches the Seminar in Teaching and The Sociology of Religious Organizations. His research explores religious affiliation, religious participation, racial diversity in congregations, congregational growth and decline, and the impact of religion on other realms of social life such as community involvement, politics, and work. He also regularly writes and speaks about innovative teaching. His published research appears in leading academic journals and has been featured in news media such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, CNN, National Public Radio, and USA Today

Areas of Expertise (7)

Religious Education


Sociology of Religion

Religion Politics & Culture

Facebook in Education

Congregational Diversity

Tests vs. Learning Celebrations

Accomplishments (2)

Outstanding Professor Award (professional)

Baylor University 2015

Outstanding Professor Award (professional)

Baylor University 2010

Education (3)

Purdue University: Ph.D., Sociology

Purdue University: M.S., Sociology

George Fox University: B.A., Communication Arts 1993

Media Appearances (23)

Kevin Dougherty

Baylor Connections  online


AUDIO: Baylor’s Faith and Character Study has yielded insights into student spiritual development that have led to greater understanding and tangible changes to better serve students. Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., professor of sociology and co-director of the study, takes listeners inside the study, sharing what factors really make a difference in helping students grow spiritually.

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Church responses to white flight have consequences

Baptist Standard  online


The ways churches respond to white flight can have “unfortunate, unintended consequences” both for congregations and the communities they serve, said Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at Baylor, who spoke at the No Need Among You Conference at First Baptist Church in Waco. “Demographic churning” and “residential segregation by race” are realities congregations must address,

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Education Surges When Students Learn Together

Inside Higher Education  online


When a class becomes a community, students change from being passive to active learners, write UCLA's Neil Garg and Baylor's Kevin D. Dougherty, who offer suggestions for how to create such an environment.

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Majority of pastors say they want racially diverse congregations, but few are finding it in reality: study

The Christian Post  online


Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, is quoted in this article on racially diverse church congregations. A study released by Baylor in 2020 found that the number of these congregations in the U.S. had tripled over 20 years.

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The ‘MAGA faction’ could be a hindrance for multiracial congregations

Baptist News Global  online


Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, is quoted in this article on the impact of politics on the diversity of church congregations.

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The big news from the 2020 Global Census is multiculturalism, which threatens some people and still eludes most churches

Baptist Global News  online


Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and graduate program director, commented on the lack of diversity in Black-majority congregations, due to white worshipers' reluctance to join majority Black congregations.

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Barna: Racism a reality even in multiracial churches

Baptist News Global  online


This article about recent Barna Group research - “Do Multiracial Churches Offer Healthy Community for Non-White Attendees?” – cites a 2020 study by Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty and other scholars that focused on churches in which no one racial or ethnic group makes up more than 80% of the congregation.

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Racial diversity within a church is associated with higher average attendance over time

EurekAlert  online


Racial diversity within the church is associated with a higher average attendance over time, according to a study led by Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology. The research was reported on by the Christian Post.

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With $1 million grant, 25 Alliance of Baptists congregations are working to understand systemic racism and overcome it

Baptist News Global  online


Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, is among the researchers involved in a five-year national scholarly study of how to expose and address systemic racism in their local contexts. The “Churches that THRIVE for Racial Justice” initiative is funded by a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment and is administered by Davidson College.

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More churches defined as racially diverse, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to racial justice work

Baptist News Global  online


Evidence that American churches have become more racially diverse doesn’t mean they have become increasingly active in promoting racial justice causes, according to a study co-authored by Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at Baylor University, and published in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

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Catholics lead all Christians in number of racially diverse congregations

The Catholic Spirit/Catholic News Service  online


U.S. Catholics lead all Christian faiths in the percentage of racially diverse congregations in their parishes, according to a new study published by Baylor University. The study, led by Baylor sociologist Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., also was published by the Catholic Sun and CRUX.

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Baylor study: Racially diverse churches increased in 20 years

Baptist Standard  online


Racially diverse congregations have nearly tripled in the United States over the past 20 years, and the percentage of all-white congregations has declined, according to a study by Baylor sociologist Kevin D. Dougherty and two colleagues.

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Study: Multiracial churches growing, but racial unity may be elusive

Religion News Service  online


New research led by Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., and colleagues from Duke and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that racially diverse congregations have more than tripled in the United States over the past 20 years, but the study does not conclude that diverse congregations necessarily promote racial justice. This article also ran in The Washington Post.

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Multiracial congregations in US have nearly tripled, Baylor University study finds

EurekAlert  online


New research led by Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., and colleagues from Duke and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that racially diverse congregations have more than tripled in the United States over the past 20 years, but the study does not conclude that diverse congregations necessarily promote racial justice.

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Snapchat, Instagram and Other Unexpected Guests in Class

Inside Higher Ed  online


Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, and Ph.D. student Jesse DeDeyne documented how students used their cellphones during a sociology class last fall (spoiler: texting friends and checking Snapchat) and discuss how they'll change their teaching in response.

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Multiracial Congregations May Not Bridge Racial Divide

NPR  online


AUDIO: Research on multiracial congregations by Kevin Dougherty of Baylor University and Mark Chaves of Duke University is cited in this NPR story about the multiracial church movement. The researchers found that the share of churches defined as "multiracial," with at least one out of five members from a minority background, grew from 6% in 1998 to 16% in 2019, but during that time, however, those multiracial churches did not themselves become significantly more diverse.

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Is the pandemic-era church a church without baptisms, funerals and other major rituals?

Baptist News Global  online


Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., is quoted in this article about how going without baptisms, funerals, weddings and other milestone ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic has led pastors and laypeople into some unfamiliar territory. The interruption or loss of these rites, Dougherty said, can disrupt the individual and group identity.

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Don’t panic, mom and dad: your kid’s tattoo may reinforce religious identity

Baptist News Global  online


Parents are often disappointed when a teen or adult child acquires a tattoo. But a newly published study led by Baylor University scholar Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., suggests Mom and Dad may want to go easy when the images are religious in nature.

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People are getting tattoos on their faces. Meet the artists who say they have a moral obligation to stop them

Deseret News  online


This article about facial tattoos cites recent Baylor and Texas Tech research led by Baylor sociology professor Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., about religious tattoos.

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A Proclamation And A Reminder: The Faithful Embrace Religious Tattoos

Texas Standard  radio


Baylor sociology professor Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., is interviewed by Texas Standard host David Brown about new research from Baylor and Texas Tech that studied religious tattoos and found a major shift in how the faithful feel about marking their body. (Terry Goodrich with Media & Public Relations helped arrange this interview on Baylor research.)

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Unhappy with the neighbors? Try more church, study says

Baptist News Global  online


Neither “worshiping local” nor commuting to church make Christians better neighbors. Instead, it’s the frequency of attendance that brings out those neighborly attitudes and behaviors, according to a new study led by Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D.

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How often people worship is more important than where they worship when it comes to being good neighbors

Jewish World  online


A new study led by Baylor sociology professor Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., shows that frequent worship service attendance — whether “worshipping local” or traveling farther — is associated with higher commitment to the neighborhood where the congregant lives.

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Frequency of Worship, Not Location, Matters More When It Comes to Being Good Neighbors

ScienMag  online


A new study led by Baylor sociology professor Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., shows that frequent worship service attendance — whether “worshipping local” or traveling farther — is associated with higher commitment to the neighborhood where the congregant lives.

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Articles (9)

Using Facebook to Engage Learners in a Large Introductory Course

Teaching Sociology

2014 Classes of hundreds pose special challenges for teaching and learning. Notable among these challenges is the tendency for students to feel like anonymous spectators rather than active, collaborative participants. To combat this tendency, we used the popular social networking site Facebook to cultivate a sense of community among 200-plus students in an Introduction to Sociology course. The Facebook Group proved a powerful tool for community-building and learning. We describe our Facebook Group, present evidence of its benefits in the course, and discuss the pedagogical potential of social media.

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Race, Belonging, and Participation in Religious Congregations

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

2013 Significant effort has gone into understanding and promoting racial diversity in congregations. Still, uniting worshippers of different races remains a challenging endeavor. Even congregations that successfully attract worshippers of different races often have difficulty sustaining their multiracial composition. This study contributes to the discussion of race and religion by examining racial group differences in belonging and participation in congregations. Drawing on organizational ecology theory, we develop four hypotheses to test whether and how racial group size corresponds to congregational commitment. Results of multilevel modeling using 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey data reveal that those who are a part of a congregation's largest racial group possess a stronger sense of belonging and participate at a deeper level than congregants of other races. Moreover, differences in belonging and participation by racial group persist regardless of group size.

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A Religious Profile of American Entrepreneurs

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

2013 The entrepreneur is a celebrated figure in American society. These innovative risk-takers hold an influential place in the economy and in popular culture. Substantial research has gone into identifying characteristics associated with these individuals, but research on entrepreneurs and religion is surprisingly sparse and inconsistent. Using national survey data, we examine religious affiliation, belief, and behavior for Americans who have started or are trying to start a business. American entrepreneurs appear no different than nonentrepreneurs in religious affiliation, belief in God, or religious service attendance. They do tend to see God as more personal, pray more frequently, and are more likely to attend a place of worship that encourages business activity. A discussion of implications concludes the research note.

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A Place to Belong: Small Group Involvement in Religious Congregations

Sociology of Religion

2011 Large congregations are commonly criticized as eliciting less involvement from adherents than smaller congregations. Small groups have been heralded as a remedy to drawbacks of increasing congregation size. This study tests the relevance of small groups to individuals’ commitment and participation, particularly in large congregations. Analysis features the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey and a survey of congregants at one Central Texas Megachurch. Persons involved in small groups devoted to prayer, discussion, or Bible study report a greater sense of belonging, more frequent attendance, and higher rates of giving. The effect of small group involvement does not differ by congregation size, however. From worshippers in one Texas megachurch, we find that the extent of small group involvement positively relates to commitment and participation. Small groups may not completely resolve problems associated with increasing size, but we believe they do represent a potent source of vitality in congregations big and small.

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Congregational Responses to Growing Urban Diversity in a White Ethnic Denomination

Social Problems

2009 How do congregations from a white ethnic denomination respond to growing urban diversity? Using an ecological perspective, we examine 14 Christian Reformed congregations in Southeast Grand Rapids, Michigan over a 30-year time period (1970 to 2000). We track neighborhood composition, residential patterns of congregation members, and congregation membership totals. As white residents declined in urban neighborhoods, congregations from this historically Dutch denomination had difficulty sustaining themselves as neighborhood churches. Tracing the history of these congregations revealed churches reaching beyond their neighborhoods for members as the surroundings changed. Such activities resulted in niche overlap, heightened competition, and jeopardized organizational sustainability. Older, more traditional churches in the most dramatically changing neighborhoods saw membership plummet. Newer, more suburban congregations showed greater stability. Fastest growing were mission churches originally formed to serve non-Dutch constituencies but now attracting diverse members from a wide area. Implementing organizational ecology theory, our conclusions address issues of adaptation, institutional interrelationships, and the contingent nature of competitive advantage.

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Racially Diverse Congregations: Organizational Identity and the Accommodation of Differences

Journal For the Scientific Study of Religion

2008 Racial integration in religious congregations is a topic of keen interest to researchers and religious leaders. Although not common, there are congregations that successfully reach across cultural lines to attract adherents. Prior studies tend to dichotomize congregations into categories of multiracial and nonmultiracial and, thereby, miss a wider range of racial variation...

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When the Final Bell Tolls: Patterns of Church Closings in Two Protestant Denominations

Review of Religious Research

2008 While growth in congregations and denominations generates much research, few studies speak to the other side of religious organization performance: decline and death. This study steps into this gap to consider rates and reasons for closings among America's most pervasive form of voluntary association. Drawing on prior studies of organizational mortality outside religion, we examine congregational closure as a function of organizational age. Longitudinal data from more than 15,000 congregations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and Church of the Nazarene enable tests of age-liabilities. Congregations from these denominations experience lower rates of mortality than other types of formal organizations, but they are not immune from challenges to survival at founding and after 40-50 years in existence. Minimum resources necessary for congregational survival and implications for denominational growth and decline are discussed in conclusion.

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Recovering the Lost: Remeasuring U.S. Religious Affiliation

Journal For the Scientific Study of Religion

2007 Over the past several decades, survey research has found a growing percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation. In this article, we introduce a modified religious traditions (RELTRAD) typology to measure religious affiliation. The approach benefits from a more detailed data collection and coding scheme of religious tradition based upon religious family, denomination, and congregation...

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How Monochromatic is Church Membership? Racial-Ethnic Diversity in Religious Community

Sociology of Religion

2003 It is a common conception that the church is among the most segregated of American institutions, yet there is little research to identify the extent of racial-ethnic homogeneity or to explain what factors propel diversity within religious communities. Research that does exist draws primarily on individual level data and treats diversity as a categorical variable. This paper introduces a continuous measure of racial-ethnic diversity...

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