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Religion and Civic Culture: A Cross-National Study of Voluntary Association Membership

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This article explores how religion shapes civic cultures through a cross-national study of voluntary association membership. I adopt a multi-level approach to examine the influence of religion at both individual and country level. First, I hypothesize that Protestants are more likely than Catholics to hold voluntary association membership. Second, I hypothesize that Protestant nations have a higher overall membership rate compared to Catholic nations. Third, I investigate if secularization has reduced individual-level Catholic-Protestant differences in voluntary association membership within a nation. I test the hypotheses using hierarchical nonlinear models with individual-level and country-level data from 29 nations. The findings show that Protestants are more likely than Catholics to be members of voluntary associations, while there is no difference between Protestants and those who belong to “Other” or no religions. At the same time, Catholic nations have lower overall membership rates compared to Protestant nations. The results can be interpreted as a “double negative” Catholic effect. Finally, the effect of secularization on Catholic-Protestant differences is statistically nonsignificant.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Pui-Yan Lam is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Eastern Washington University, 314 Patterson Hall, Cheney, WA 99004., Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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