The Trouble With Types: A Partial Test of the Validity of Membership Association Content as a Proxy for Structure

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.

Publication Date:
Sep 21 2018
Date Submitted:
Jul 10 2019
Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly

Note: The file is under embargo until: 2019-12-31

 Record created 2019-07-10, last modified 2019-07-11

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