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Religion, Clubs, and Emergent Social Divides

  • Michael D. Makowsky


    (Department of Economics, Towson University)

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.

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Paper provided by Towson University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2009-03.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision: May 2010
Handle: RePEc:tow:wpaper:2009-03
Contact details of provider: Postal: Towson, Maryland 21252-0001
Phone: 410-704-2959
Fax: 410-704-3424
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