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Participation of Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Whites in Voluntary Associations: A Test of Current Theories

Steven Martin Cohen and Robert E. Kapsis
Social Forces
Vol. 56, No. 4 (Jun., 1978), pp. 1053-1071
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2577510
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2577510
Page Count: 19
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Participation of Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Whites in Voluntary Associations: A Test of Current Theories
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Abstract

To interpret the relatively high rates of voluntary organization participation among blacks, theorists have developed deprivation and normative explanations. Both interpretations suggest that oppressed minority groups will develop group coherence and salience to their members. However, unlike the deprivation argument, the normative conception does not view the development of activist norms as an inevitable outcome of this process. By examining the organizational behavior of Puerto Ricans, blacks, and whites in New York City, we test several key postulates from each interpretation. None of the postulates is consistently supported. Most damaging to both arguments is that black ethnic identifiers do not exhibit higher participatory rates than their more assimilated peers. That lower-class black women manifest an unusually active pattern of organizational membership as compared with their male counterparts is shown also to be incompatible with both the deprivation and normative conceptions. Further inquiries into the mechanisms which predispose a particular subgroup within a minority population to be more involved in voluntary organizations that another are recommended.

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