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Sex Segregation in Voluntary Associations

J. Miller McPherson and Lynn Smith-Lovin
American Sociological Review
Vol. 51, No. 1 (Feb., 1986), pp. 61-79
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095478
Page Count: 19
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Sex Segregation in Voluntary Associations
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Abstract

We analyze the sex composition of 815 face-to-face voluntary organizations in 10 communities to determine the extent of sex integration produced by voluntary affiliation. The sex segregation in these groups is substantial; nearly one-half of the organizations are exclusively female, while one-fifth are all male. Instrumental organizations (business-related and political groups) are more likely to be sex heterogeneous, while expressive groups are likely to be exclusively male or female. From the point of view of the individual, the typical female membership generates face-to-face contact with about 29 other members, less than four of whom are men. Male memberships, on the other hand, produce contact with over 37 other members on the average, nearly eight of whom are female. Men's contacts are both more numerous and more heterogeneous. We conclude that there is little support for the sex integration hypothesis in these data, although the sex heterogeneity of instrumental groups (especially those which are job-related) indicates that this pattern may change as women move into the labor force in increasing numbers. The paper explores some consequences of segregation for the organizations and the social networks they generate.

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