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Religion, Clubs, and Emergent Social Divides

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  • Michael D. Makowsky

    (Department of Economics, Towson University)

Abstract

Arguments for and against the existence of an American cultural divide are frequently placed in a religious context. This paper seeks to establish that, all politics aside, the American religious divide is real, that modern religious polarization is not a uniquely American phenomenon, and that religious divides can be understood as naturally emergent within the club theory of religion. Analysis of the 2005 Baylor University Religion Survey reveals a bimodal distribution of religious commitment in the United States. International survey data reveals bimodal distributions in twenty-five of twenty-nine surveyed countries. The club theory of religion, when applied in a multi-agent model, generates bimodal distributions of religious commitment whose emergence correlates to the substitutability of club goods for standard goods and the mean population wage rate. This tendency towards religious polarization has important ramifications for majority rule electoral outcomes when religion is politically salient. Majority rule, principally analogous to the statistical median, is a non-robust estimator of voter preferences when they are bimodally distributed. Given recent evidence that religiosity has come to dominate income as a determinant of voter preferences, small errors can be anticipated to disproportionately affect electoral outcomes in the U.S.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael D. Makowsky, 2009. "Religion, Clubs, and Emergent Social Divides," Working Papers 2009-03, Towson University, Department of Economics, revised May 2010.
  • Handle: RePEc:tow:wpaper:2009-03
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel M. Hungerman, 2014. "Do Religious Proscriptions Matter?: Evidence from a Theory-Based Test," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(4), pages 1053-1093.
    2. Friedman, Daniel. & Fan, Jijian. & Jonathan Gair & Sriya Iyer & Bartosz Redlicki & Chander Velu, 2016. "How Fundamentalism Takes Root: A Simulation Study," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1681, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    3. Finley, Theresa, 2021. "Free riding in the monastery: Club goods, the cistercian order and agricultural investment in Ancien Regime France," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 184(C), pages 318-336.
    4. Friedman, D. & Fan, J. & Gair, J. & Iyer, S. & Redlicki, B. & Velu, C., 2020. "A Simulation Study of How Religious Fundamentalism Takes Root," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 2089, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Culture Divide; Religious Divide; Club Theory; Multi-Agent Model; Sacrifice and Stigma.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques

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