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Sarah Young, David Berlan
Published: 1 November 2021
Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 12, pp 413-438; https://doi.org/10.1332/204080521x16125404492343

Abstract:
Does the sector that an individual works in influence their motivation to participate in voluntary associations? Private and public engagement motivation theories hold that individuals participate in these collective action associations to either benefit themselves or benefit the common good, respectively. While previous research has evaluated motivations to join, the influence of engagement motivation theory by sector has yet to be evaluated. This study uses the 2011 American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) ‘Decision to Join II’ study to examine whether an individual’s sector influences their motivation to engage in formal, voluntary collective action networks. We found that non-profit and government sector employees value benefits that impact the public good more than benefits that directly impact themselves. These findings suggest that there may be a difference in the type of benefits that individuals who work in for-profit, non-profit and government sectors value when deciding whether or not to engage in voluntary associations.
, Xavier Durham
Published: 22 September 2021
Sociological Perspectives, Volume 65, pp 661-683; https://doi.org/10.1177/07311214211046561

Abstract:
Deciding whether Americans have become decreasingly involved in group life entails a methodological issue: Does the standard question about the associations to which respondents belong, asked for decades by the General Social Survey (GSS) and many others, miss newer and more diverse forms of group involvement? Following on Paxton and Rap, we mine a recent panel survey, UCNets, that provides several different means for allowing respondents to describe their group involvement. We observe more and much more varied kinds of group involvement than those elicited by the last GSS administration of the standard question in 2004. (Analyses in the Supplement of a few additional surveys confirm this diversity.) These results lead to suggestions for how to better measure involvement in groups, in particular being more sensitive to many axes of difference in the general population. The results have implications for the larger debate as well.
Susan M. Chambré
Published: 1 June 2020
Social Service Review, Volume 94, pp 373-421; https://doi.org/10.1086/708941

Abstract:
This article considers whether there have been substantial changes in volunteering in the United States. Drawing on an extensive review of historical, ethnographic, and survey data, it focuses on trends, styles, and motivations of volunteers. The article describes how volunteer rates are cyclical and contingent on social and cultural changes, including events that serve as national traumas, such as wars, natural disasters, and the 9/11 attacks. Many features of volunteering have been consistent over time, but there have been some notable changes, including greater participation by the young and the old and a sharp decline in volunteer rates for people lacking a college education. Volunteers continue to be influenced by humanitarian and altruistic motives, and a desire to give back to organizations that benefit friends and family has become more prominent.
, Markus Freitag
Published: 14 October 2019
European Journal of Political Research, Volume 59, pp 290-311; https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12359

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
Virgil Henry Storr, Ginny Seung Choi
Published: 22 August 2019
The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
Kirstin Hallmann,
Published: 1 February 2019
Journal: Event Management
Event Management, Volume 23, pp 11-26; https://doi.org/10.3727/152599518x15403853721411

Abstract:
The purpose of this research is to investigate if the perceived benefits and costs of volunteering are congruent among nonprofit organizations and for-profit sport events and how they influence volunteers' satisfaction and behavioral intentions. By means of a survey, data from the German Championships in Gymnastics (n = 51) and a tournament of the German Gymnastics Federation (n = 74) plus data from eight nonprofit sport clubs (n = 115) were collected. The findings are underpinning the rationale of social exchange theory from a theoretical perspective. Volunteer managers should be aware that perceived costs and benefits differ between club and event volunteers. Social capital drives behavioral intentions of event volunteers, but not behavioral intentions of club volunteers.
Robyn Rap, Pamela Paxton
Published: 3 October 2018
Sociological Methods & Research, Volume 50, pp 866-900; https://doi.org/10.1177/0049124118799384

Abstract:
Questions on voluntary association memberships have been used extensively in social scientific research for decades. Researchers generally assume that these respondent self-reports are accurate, but their measurement has never been assessed. Respondent characteristics are known to influence the accuracy of other self-report variables such as self-reported health, voting, or test scores. In this article, we investigate whether measurement error occurs in self-reports of voluntary association memberships. We use the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) questions on voluntary associations, which include a novel resource: the actual organization names listed by respondents. We find that this widely used voluntary association classification scheme contains significant amounts of measurement error overall, especially within certain categories. Using a multilevel logistic regression, we predict accuracy of response nested within respondents and interviewers. We find that certain respondent characteristics, including some used in research on voluntary associations, influence respondent accuracy. Inaccurate and/or incorrect measurement will affect the statistics and conclusions drawn from the data on voluntary associations.
, Kimberly DeGroff Madsen
Published: 21 September 2018
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 48, pp 334-359; https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764018800781

Abstract:
Research findings on what types of voluntary associations influence members’ political participation are inconsistent. We suggest the problem is the use of content-based types (e.g., political, service, leisure) as proxies for civic structures (e.g., member interaction, political talk) in organizations. Proxy measures assume structural consistency among organizations within content types. Is this assumption warranted? To investigate, we reorganize data from the American Citizen Participation Survey, using reports from individuals about the associations they joined to create a 5,371-case organization-level data set. We analyze variation in organizational structures within and between content types. We find that while types focused on partisan politics are somewhat consistent, most types are so internally varied that knowing the type gives little insight into any given organization’s structures. We offer suggestions for future data collection efforts that could capture better data on association content and structure.
Hans-Peter Y Qvist, , Torben Fridberg
Published: 31 July 2018
European Sociological Review, Volume 34, pp 589-601; https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcy030

Abstract:
Previous research from the United States suggests that volunteers’ time contributions have declined during a period when participation rates have risen. Scholars have offered various possible explanations for this trend, including generational differences, socio-economic changes, and family life changes. In Europe, previous research has shown that participation rates have risen in most countries, but little work has addressed trends in volunteers’ time contributions. In this article, we use survey data from Denmark merged with data from administrative registers covering the 2004–2012 period to show that, similar to the trend in the United States, Danish volunteers’ time contributions have declined as participation rates have risen. Our results suggest that this decline is partially explained not by socio-economic or family life changes but by weakening organizational attachment measured by a decline in volunteers’ propensities to be members of the organizations for which they volunteer. On these grounds, we argue that an important consequence of weakening organizational attachment is that volunteers’ contributions of time decline.
, Pamela Paxton, , Robert W. Ressler
Published: 6 July 2018
Social Indicators Research, Volume 142, pp 1015-1029; https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-018-1956-6

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
, Anya M. Galli Robertson,
Published: 10 January 2018
Local Environment, Volume 23, pp 431-447; https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2018.1428187

Abstract:
Although recent studies have suggested that environmental participation may be a countertrend to decreasing civic engagement in the United States, there are very few empirical studies that examine these claims. This paper studies participation in local environmental stewardship as such a countertrend. Using data collected from participants in the Watershed Stewards Academies (WSAs) of Maryland, we assess how these organisations are successful in mobilising individuals to be environmentally and civically engaged in their communities. We argue that hybrid organisations like the WSAs represent a countertrend to diminishing rates of civic engagement by offering citizens what a “paper-membership” cannot: the chance to lead their own environmental restoration projects, create tangible change in their communities, and network with other like-minded individuals. These environmental programmes serve to diversify democracy at the local level, providing a unique form of civic engagement and enriching the connections between individual citizens and their civic communities.
Published: 15 February 2017
Public Management Review, Volume 19, pp 1437-1454; https://doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2017.1284255

Abstract:
Members are the most important stakeholders in membership organizations; their involvement can enhance organizational effectiveness, accountability, and legitimacy. Previous literature, however, has primarily explored these concepts by focusing on staff involvement or client participation. This paper examines the determinants of members’ involvement in membership organizations using cross-sectional data from Lebanese membership organizations. Primary findings suggest that members’ involvement is affected by the gender of leadership, internal fiscal capacity, and the size of the organization; small organizations, those led by women, and organizations with greater internal fiscal capacity are more likely to have greater participation by members.
Dana R. Fisher, Anya M. Galli
Published: 13 September 2016
Revue des sciences sociales pp 32-43; https://doi.org/10.4000/revss.1953

Abstract:
Who participates in volunteer stewardship in urban areas? Are these types of activities related to other kinds of environmental and civic participation? Moreover, how does the structure of stewardship organizations influence volunteer engagement? This paper looks at volunteers at tree planting initiatives in three American cities—New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC—to understand who participates in these efforts and how volunteer stewardship is related to other environmental activities, as well as broader trends in civic participation. Our findings show that the organizational structure of these types of stewardship programs plays a significant role in volunteer engagement. We connect our findings to broader issues regarding the relationship between environmentalism and democracy and discuss the implications of these results.
David H. Smith, Brent Never, John Mohan, Lionel Prouteau, Lars Torpe
Published: 1 January 2016
The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
Published: 30 July 2015
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 45, pp 72S-94S; https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764015597782

Abstract:
Do urban voluntary associations foster bridging social ties? Recent research on diverse urban areas suggests that local voluntary associations may be forming ties between different social groups. Research on associations, however, suggests that the memberships of such organizations are typically demographically homogeneous. Using demographic and geo-spatial data on 1,032 members of 25 independent community choirs in Boston, this article demonstrates that, in line with associational research, urban associations offer relatively few opportunities for direct demographic bridging due to internal racial homogeneity. There is substantial variation, however, in the characteristics of neighborhoods where members live. This variation opens opportunities for members to act as representatives of diverse neighborhoods creating representative bridging ties between groups. While likely producing less dramatic changes in attitudes than direct bridging ties, representative bridging opportunities are far more common, and, therefore, may serve as a first step toward greater tolerance and trust in diverse metropolitan settings.
Published: 20 November 2014
Sociological Perspectives, Volume 58, pp 264-285; https://doi.org/10.1177/0731121414556843

Abstract:
This study examines patterns of civic participation through volunteerism among youth across immigrant generations using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002. This study asks the following question: Does the association between volunteerism and immigrant generational status vary by race and ethnicity, and are differences in volunteerism by race/ethnic immigrant generation status mediated by acculturation, cumulative resources during youth, and institutional opportunities? The results show that the first and second generation Hispanic youth are less likely to volunteer than third+ generation whites. The findings demonstrate that the lower levels of family socioeconomic status, parents’ civic participation, engagement in extracurricular activities, and enrollment in postsecondary institutions account for this pattern. Contrary to classical assimilation theory, having non-English-language-speaking parents is associated with a higher likelihood of volunteerism. Furthermore, an immigrant advantage is found for first generation Hispanic youth for regular volunteerism, and a second generation advantage is found for Asians for all volunteer frequencies.
Published: 15 July 2014
Hispanic journal of behavioral sciences, Volume 36, pp 247-264; https://doi.org/10.1177/0739986314540860

Abstract:
This study investigates patterns of volunteerism within a rapidly growing segment of the population, Mexican immigrant and Mexican origin youth, using data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002. These data show that volunteerism varies by immigrant generational status. Contradicting classical assimilation theory, first-generation Mexican immigrant youth are found to be more likely to engage in volunteerism compared with their third-plus-generation counterparts. This difference is most pronounced at the lower end of the family income spectrum. The study also analyzes the effects of components of family capital, family income and parental education, on youth volunteerism. Family income and parental education both have a positive effect on volunteerism, but the former is associated with volunteerism of any frequency and the latter with regular volunteerism.
, Stephen F. Ostertag
Published: 1 March 2014
Sociological Perspectives, Volume 57, pp 52-78; https://doi.org/10.1177/0731121413517558

Abstract:
Scholarship on collective civic action helps link collective-level contentious actions and individual-level civic engagement. Using longitudinal data from a group of New Orleans residents who started blogging in the wake of hurricane Katrina, we highlight the digitally mediated social processes linking individual civic engagement with collective civic actions. Through a developmental approach, we analyze the progression from individual blogging to the creation of social networks, the formation of a community of “Katrina bloggers,” and their engagement on a range of offline collective civic actions. We argue that the Web serves as a “virtual” mobilizing structure, enabling individuals with shared concerns to organize across time and space, without the need of copresence or preexisting formal ties, networks, or organizations. Our analysis provides insights into the development of virtual communities and social movements formed around collective identities and processes of collective efficacy that highlight the dynamics of contention in civil society.
Erik W. Johnson
Published: 21 April 2013
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 43, pp 163S-181S; https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764013484091

Abstract:
This article describes the scope and composition of national associational populations in four similar countries (Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and United States), by way of introducing an important new data release on national associational populations. Special attention is devoted to the subset of associations attending to social inequality issues of gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation, and which are of particular interest to social movement and interest group scholars. No evidence is found for the Tocquevillian notion of heightened national-level associational activity in the United States. The nonmembership associational form is, however, particularly prominent in the United States. Associations attending to social inequality issues in the United Kingdom are structured very differently from these other nations, likely as a result of the unitary nature of government in that country rather than a strong federal system.
Youn Kyoung Kim,
Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Volume 23, pp 485-499; https://doi.org/10.1080/10911359.2013.772434

Abstract:
This study examines the leisure constraints experienced by elderly men and investigates how leisure constraints affect their level of participation in leisure activities. A convenience sampling of the independent elderly, sixty or older, residing in Seoul and the province of Kyenggi in Korea comprised the study sample. Of the total 275 participants, 164 were male. The study employed hierarchical multiple regression analysis including demographic, health status, financial status, and leisure constraint factors impacting participation in leisure activities. The findings of the study highlight the importance of interpersonal constraints of elderly men in leisure participation. The elderly men reported significantly higher levels of interpersonal constraints than the elderly women. Financial status factors, such as leisure allowance and employment status, were confirmed to be more influential predictors in determining the elderly men's leisure participation. Practice implications include considering interpersonal constraints or financial status to enhance elderly men's leisure life.
Dana R. Fisher
Published: 11 August 2012
Annual Review of Sociology, Volume 38, pp 119-137; https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-071811-145439

Abstract:
What is the relationship between social movements and electoral politics? Although the empirical reality of American politics has increasingly blurred the lines between activism and electoral politics, sociology has yet to explore these changes and provide theoretical and methodological tools to understand them. Focusing on the experience of young Americans, this review explores this relationship and outlines opportunities for future research. It is broken down into three sections. First, I review the main themes in the study of youth political participation in America. Second, using examples from the 2008 election, the article examines recent increases in youth participation. Third and finally, this article discusses the case of the Obama campaign, its transition into the Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America, and aspects of the 2012 election to highlight the complex relationship between movements and electoral politics in America today. The paper concludes by highlighting opportunities for sociologists to bridge the connections between activism and electoral politics in new and meaningful ways.
, Margaret Gray
Published: 6 July 2012
Agriculture And Human Values, Volume 30, pp 85-100; https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-012-9391-9

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
, , Erika S. Svendsen
Published: 24 January 2012
Environmental Politics, Volume 21, pp 26-48; https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2011.643367

Abstract:
How is the organisational structure of urban environmental stewardship groups related to the diverse ways that civic stewardship is taking place in urban settings? The findings of the limited number of studies that have explored the organisational structure of civic environmentalism are combined with the research on civic stewardship to answer this question. By bridging these relatively disconnected strands of research and testing their expectations on a structured sample of civic groups that were surveyed in New York City, a statistically significant relationship is found between the organisational structure of groups and both the organisational characteristics, as well as the types of environmental work they are doing. How these findings advance the research on urban environmental stewardship is discussed, as well as what these results tell us about the ways civil society engages in urban stewardship more broadly.
Aleksandra Kacperczyk
Published: 17 November 2011
SSRN Electronic Journal; https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1961387

Abstract:
This study examines the degree of social connectedness in the workplace. Organizational theory and sociology of work lead to the expectation that informal ties have become more prevalent at work over the past two decades. In contrast, influential accounts of decreasing civic engagement would predict that co-worker ties have declined along with increasing social isolation. Using data from two waves of the General Social Survey, we find evidence that co-workers have not absorbed the decline in other social ties; instead, prevalence of co-workers in core discussion networks has significantly decreased between 1985 and 2004. Moreover, cross-national comparisons based on data collected in 29 nations by the International Social Survey Program reveal social isolation in the workplace to be deeper in historically Protestant nations, including the United States. Yet American workers are even more disconnected from close contacts than are workers in other historically Protestant nations. We suggest that historical trends in cultural value orientations shape current constraints of social connectedness at work in the United States and elsewhere. The conclusion offers novel insights on fraying social fabric in the United States and the social implications of the rise of organizations.
Michele K. Masterfano
Published: 1 March 2011
New England Journal of Entrepreneurship, Volume 14, pp 29-40; https://doi.org/10.1108/neje-14-02-2011-b003

Abstract:
Research into entrepreneurial networking activities has ignored an aspect that is important to the entrepreneurs‐does it make sense to pay dues to an organization that promises networking opportunities to help build their business? This study looked at that aspect of networking by comparing revenue growth rates and average number of employees between those businesses whose owners belong to paid membership organizations and those who do not. No differences were found between the two groups of entrepreneurial firms. While there are still benefits to joining these organizations, entrepreneurs should not expect to grow their business because of membership.
Marc Hooghe, Sarah Botterman
Published: 22 February 2011
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 41, pp 120-144; https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764011398297

Abstract:
Traditional sociological insights assume that cities are characterized by lower levels of voluntary engagement as it is expected that community size and population density are negatively associated with network and mobilization opportunities. Others, however, argue that cities allow for the formation of different networks that are no longer based on ascribed personal characteristics. The authors analyze voluntary association membership in Belgium, based on the “Social Cohesion Indicators in Flanders” dataset ( n = 2,080 respondents, sampled in 40 communities). The analysis shows that neither population density nor community size have an effect on scope or intensity of participation in voluntary associations. Only two forms of associations are negatively related to population density. Their results therefore do not support the hypothesis of a rural-urban divide in participation in voluntary associations. They speculate how future research could take into account different sorts of voluntary associations when investigating the rural-urban divide and include other measurements of participation.
, Lynn M. Hempel, Frank M. Howell
Published: 12 July 2010
Sociological Inquiry, Volume 80, pp 448-474; https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-682x.2010.00342.x

Abstract:
The study of civic activity has become a central focus for many social scientists over the past decade, generating considerable research and debate. Previous studies have largely overlooked the role of youth socialization into civic life, most notably in the settings of home and school. Further, differences along gender lines in civic capacity have not been given sufficient attention in past studies. This study adds to the literature by examining the potential pathways in the development of youth civic activity and potential, utilizing both gender‐neutral and gender‐specific structural equation modeling of data from the 1996 National Household Education Survey. Results indicate that involvement by parents in their child’s schooling plays a crucial, mediating role in the relationship between adult and youth civic activity. Gender differences are minimal; thus adult school involvement is crucial for transmitting civic culture from parents to both female and male youth.
Published: 8 April 2010
Social Indicators Research, Volume 100, pp 209-224; https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-010-9612-9

Abstract:
In this paper we examine whether individualization and informalization processes have occurred in the field of leisure in The Netherlands, by analyzing the social context of a wide range of activities between 1975 and 2005. We find that the choice of a particular leisure context is dependent on education, gender, year of birth, age and time pressure. We find evidence for informalization, but—contrary to popular belief—not for individualization. The informalization trend follows a pattern of cohort replacement, and is also caused by a rise in the average education level in the population. Our findings imply that research on civil society, community and social capital should not only be concerned with membership rates, but also with participation in alternative social contexts.
Neena L. Chappell,
Published: 11 March 2010
Social Indicators Research, Volume 99, pp 357-373; https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-010-9597-4

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
Published: 12 February 2010
Journal: Sport in Society
Sport in Society, Volume 13, pp 199-211; https://doi.org/10.1080/17430430903522921

Abstract:
Even though most people seem to be correct in assuming that modern sport is somehow about to professionalize, approaches to this process are often rather superficial and one-sided in their focus on professionalization as implying more athletes with higher wages. A proper understanding of how a process of professionalization might affect the Scandinavian way to organize sport in voluntary organizations requires answers to three questions: (1) What is in fact happening to Scandinavian sport when it comes to professionalization? (2) What characteristics of voluntary organizations matter when holding forth voluntary organizations as something defensible? (3) What does a sociological concept of professionalization actually imply within this context of sport and the voluntary sector? Bringing the answers to these three questions together helps understanding of how a process of professionalization might influence voluntary organizations, their way of functioning and thereby their ability to fulfil the visions associated with them.
Marilynne Mann,
Published: 17 December 2009
Environmental management, Volume 45, pp 363-376; https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-009-9407-4

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
Published: 1 November 2009
Sociological Research Online, Volume 14, pp 92-104; https://doi.org/10.5153/sro.2049

Abstract:
This paper evaluates both the economic, or rational choice, and sociological theories to examine the effects of part-time working on employees’ activity in voluntary associations. Using longitudinal data analysis of the British Household Panel Survey from 1993 to 2005, this study demonstrates that, in Britain, part-time work increases the likelihood of individual level involvement in expressive voluntary associations (i.e. associations orientated to relatively immediate benefits for their members) but it is negatively related to their involvement in instrumental-expressive (such as trade unions and professionals’ associations) and instrumental (political, environmental, and voluntary service) associations. The main conclusion is that time is an important resource for activity in expressive voluntary associations; however, for activity in instrumental and instrumental-expressive associations other factors are more important.
Published: 2 September 2009
Abstract:
This article discusses political activism and provides an overview that highlights four key themes that have emerged during the last ten years. The first two themes are the growing recognition of the importance of the institutional context of formal rules for electoral turnout and the widespread erosion of party membership in established democracies and questions about its consequences. The last two themes, on the other hand, are the substantial revival of interest in voluntary associations and social trust spurred by theories of social capital and the expansion of diverse forms of cause-oriented types of activism. After briefly illustrating some of the literature which has developed around these themes, the article concludes by considering the challenges for the future research agenda in comparative politics.
Published: 13 March 2009
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 39, pp 429-459; https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764009334587

Abstract:
Although a great deal of research on civic engagement has been based on individual survey responses, there is emerging consensus for the need to better understand the civic opportunities provided by a given organizational context. This article develops a conceptual model to examine the different reasons why organizations would choose to invest in a membership-recruiting strategy despite the significant investment this strategy requires. The case study analysis of interest group associations in Israel confirms the hypothesis of an increased use of membership as an organizational strategy for building policy influence. The organizations are shown to be more interested over time in developing political leverage for influencing policy-making processes. Membership is viewed primarily as a strategy for rhetorical or symbolic legitimation for one organization, but even this organization uses membership as a tool for gaining greater leverage resources. Yet the findings are not optimistic regarding the focus on developing civic leadership.
Published: 1 June 2008
Journal: Acta Sociologica
Acta Sociologica, Volume 51, pp 103-121; https://doi.org/10.1177/0001699308090038

Abstract:
In this analysis of formal and informal social participation in the Netherlands between 1975 and 2000, period, life-cycle and cohort effects are disentangled and the factors that could have driven these changes are examined. Use of diary data enables an assessment of four types of social participation: formal involvement in associations, maintenance of informal contacts within the home and outside the home, and distant social contacts. Our results indicate that several changes have been taking place. A large decrease (of approximately 3 hours per week between 1980 and 2000) is found in the time people spend on social activities within the home (consisting mainly of paying visits and receiving visitors). This trend is connected with increases in work and television watching. Other changes manifest themselves as cohort differences. While younger cohorts reflect considerably less activity in formal participation, they spend more time on informal social activities outside the home. Decreasing levels of religiosity play a role with respect to both trends.
Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin,
Published: 23 June 2006
American sociological review, Volume 71, pp 353-375; https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240607100301

Abstract:
Have the core discussion networks of Americans changed in the past two decades? In 1985, the General Social Survey (GSS) collected the first nationally representative data on the confidants with whom Americans discuss important matters. In the 2004 GSS the authors replicated those questions to assess social change in core network structures. Discussion networks are smaller in 2004 than in 1985. The number of people saying there is no one with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled. The mean network size decreases by about a third (one confidant), from 2.94 in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. The modal respondent now reports having no confidant; the modal respondent in 1985 had three confidants. Both kin and non-kin confidants were lost in the past two decades, but the greater decrease of non-kin ties leads to more confidant networks centered on spouses and parents, with fewer contacts through voluntary associations and neighborhoods. Most people have densely interconnected confidants similar to them. Some changes reflect the changing demographics of the U.S. population. Educational heterogeneity of social ties has decreased, racial heterogeneity has increased. The data may overestimate the number of social isolates, but these shrinking networks reflect an important social change in America
Robert Andersen, James Curtis,
Published: 23 June 2006
American sociological review, Volume 71, pp 376-400; https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240607100302

Abstract:
This study assesses whether civic association activity has declined in four Western democracies: Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Influential accounts of decreasing civic engagement in the United States lead to the expectation of similar patterns in the other three nations. The authors test this hypothesis using data from time-use surveys of adult national samples for the mid-1960s to the late 1990s. One major finding is a clear decline in association activity in the United States, especially after 1975, but relative stability in the other three countries. Equally important are further results indicating that the American decline pertains only to women. Findings are sustained even after controlling for social background characteristics and four other activities (television watching, paid work, childcare, and physical activity). The analysis casts doubt on the theory that declining civic association activity in the United States reflects generational differences. Possible explanations for the reduced activity among American women, including lower levels of state support, are considered.
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