Three types of voluntary associations in comparative perspective: The importance of studying associational involvement through a typology of associations in 21 European countries
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Number of pages
SourceJournal of Civil Society, 5, 3, (2009), pp. 227-241
Article / Letter to editor
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Journal of Civil Society
SubjectInequality Cohesion Rationalization; Ongelijkheid Cohesie Rationalisatie
Although very different types of voluntary associations are often lumped together in (cross-national) analyses, we argue that scholars should distinguish between types of associations. In the first part of the paper, we develop a typology of voluntary associations based on theoretical considerations and previous empirical analyses of the primary concerns of these voluntary associations: leisure organizations fulfil recreational purposes, interest organizations aim to represent the interests of their members, and activist organizations advocate broad societal interests. We present a measure that is cross-nationally equivalent. The second part of the paper illustrates the validity and relevance of the typology for studies of associational involvement. First, the Mokken scale analysis shows that the repertoire of activities (membership, participation, volunteering, and donating money) that citizens employ differs across the three types. Second, cross-national analysis shows that the ratio between involvement rate and the share of volunteers in voluntary associations differs across the three types. Finally, the three types of associations are differently related to the (supposed) causes and consequences of associational involvement. We illustrate that many of these differences cancel each other out when we do not distinguish between leisure, interest and activist organizations. All in all, this article proves that the distinction between leisure, interest, and activist organizations has significant, substantial, and theoretically relevant outcomes.
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