Americans Remain a People Who Join

As far back as Tocqueville, observers of life in this country have noted Americans’ proclivity for joining “voluntary associations.” Despite talk in recent years of people “bowling alone,” Americans continue to be joiners. A report released last month by AARP gives an indication of the kinds of organizations that appeal to men and women age 29-plus.

Religious organizations have far and away the broadest constituency, with 61 percent of women and 51 percent of men saying they belong to these. Men are much more likely than women (21 percent vs. 12 percent) to belong to health/sport/country-club organizations. But women are a bit more likely than men to belong to a neighborhood group (16 percent vs. 13 percent), a hobby/garden/computer club (13 percent vs. 10 percent) or a literary/arts/study group (10 percent vs. 7 percent).

Membership in fraternal organizations like the Elks is less common, with 6 percent of men and 3 percent of women belonging. But those percentages still translate into millions of people.