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Dr. Michael Emerson

Michael Emerson

Dr. Michael Emerson
Professor Co-Director of the Institute for Urban Research
Leadership In The Church


Michael Emerson (Ph.D., Sociology, 1991, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) teaches courses in race and ethnic relations, religion, urban sociology, statistics, and methods. Emerson has researched closely the role of race in shaping social action in the United States, recently by focusing on health, residential segregation, and on the institution of religion.

Dr. Emerson has written several books on the relationship between religion and race: Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford University Press, 2000), named the 2001 Distinguished Book of the Year by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion; United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race (Oxford University Press, 2003), a normative argument that combines the writing of a theologian and three sociologists and the first book based on an extensive national study of multiracial congregations; Against All Odds: The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations (New York University Press, 2005), exploring the experiences arising from those inside racially integrated religious organizations through the use of ethnographic research; and People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States (Princeton University Press, 2006), an award-winning book which  serves as a seminal work on multiracial religious congregations.

Emerson is currently directing the Panel Study of American Religion and Ethnicity (PS-ARE). Funded by the Lilly Endowment, this study will follow the same 2600 people over the course of their lives. With oversamples of African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos and over two hundred questions on religion, this study provides one of the nation's richest data set for understanding religious life within racial and ethnic communities. Along with Elaine Howard Ecklund, Emerson is also conducting a national study of immigrant religion and civic life, funded by the Russell Sage Foundation. This two year project will help us understand what immigrants offer the United States in terms of public life, volunteering, and other forms of civic life, and how their religions help motivate their civic involvement.

Michael Emerson is the founding director of CORRUL, the Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life and is a professor of Sociology at Rice University.