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Explaining the Variation in Organized Civil Society Across States and Time


Robert C. Lowry ( is associate professor of political science, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-1204.


I analyze the determinants of the numbers of tax-exempt cultural and historical, sports and recreation, civil rights, and environment and conservation organizations in American states circa 1990 and 1998. Controlling for state population, aggregate measures of educational attainment and religious affiliation have substantial and statistically significant effects across all four types of organizations and for both philanthropic and nonphilanthropic sports and recreation organizations. In contrast, the effects of public spending, fundraising regulations, and direct democracy provisions are relatively small. Thus, the size and composition of these parts of organized civil society are largely independent of the public sector.

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