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Explaining the Prevalence of Voluntary Associations among 351 Massachusetts Municipalities circa 1965: Testing a Theory

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Abstract Data from an extensive research project in the state of Massachusetts (USA), collected in the 1960s and never before reported, are used to test a theory of association prevalence among 351 municipalities. The dependent variable to be explained was an Association Prevalence Index (total number existing) in each municipality. The Index was derived from Massachusetts Statehouse physical records for all incorporated Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs), and showed an average of 33 associations per municipality. Using bivariate correlations, the results confirmed the theory generally. Association prevalence (raw number of associations) in a municipality was positively and significantly related to larger population size, being a county administrative center, more business telephones, greater circulation of weekly newspapers (local newspapers), more service businesses, more state government agencies, more churches, larger percentage of African-Americans, and more halls/buildings available for association gatherings (meetings, events). Contrary to the theory, the socioeconomic status of municipalities was not significantly related to association prevalence. The Statehouse Association Prevalence Index was correlated very highly (r = .92) with an independent measure of association prevalence, derived from coding the “Yellow Pages” of phone books. This result indicates the reliability and general validity of both prevalence measures.


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