A test of the temperance hypothesis: Class, religiosity, and tolerance of prostitution

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17 Scopus citations


Public attitudes toward prostitution are a neglected area of study. Temperance theory posits that end-of-the century political culture is characterized by the persistence of moral politics in which personal behavior is moralized and sanctioned. Driving this politics is the economic insecurity of the middle class to reassert status boundaries as markers of respectability in order to clearly separate classes physically and socially. This hypothesis has not been tested empirically and it contradicts hypotheses derived from post materialist theory or revised modernization theory, which proposes that there is a trend towardmore tolerance of deviance in contemporary society, and that the traditional classbased cleavages have shifted and now focus more on value cleavages. This article tests these competing hypotheses, examining whether there is a trend toward greater intolerance of prostitution and whether the middle class became more intolerant in the 1990s. In addition, we test the effects of social class and religiosity on tolerance of prostitution. Results show that the U.S. pubic became more tolerant toward prostitution across social classes in the 1990s and that religiosity continues to serve as a powerful counterbalance to social acceptance of prostitution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-205
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Ascetic deviance
  • Class
  • Prostitution
  • Public opinion
  • Temperance theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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