Religion, Clubs, and Emergent Social Divides

35 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2009 Last revised: 7 May 2010

See all articles by Michael D. Makowsky

Michael D. Makowsky

Clemson University - John E. Walker Department of Economics

Date Written: May 6, 2010


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 evidence of bimodal distributions in all 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 bimodally distributed voter preferences.

Suggested Citation

Makowsky, Michael D., Religion, Clubs, and Emergent Social Divides (May 6, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Michael D. Makowsky (Contact Author)

Clemson University - John E. Walker Department of Economics ( email )

Clemson, SC 29634
United States


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