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Can Reasons Be Causes? Culture, Moral Languages, and Civic Engagement
Unformatted Document Text:  asked to conduct the interview with the person in the household who had the most recent birthday. All non-household numbers (business, government, nonprofit, etc.) were screened out of the sample through direct calling dispositions or ascription of contact and non-contact telephone numbers for non-completes based on proportions of household numbers among working telephone numbers. Survey respondents were offered an incentive of 10 dollars to complete the survey. The final sample size was 2,898. The response rate was 47 percent. Dependent Variable We measured civic engagement with a dichotomous variable that is coded as one if respondents volunteered for a community project in the last year, and is coded as zero if respondents did not volunteer for a community project in the last year. We also distinguished whether respondents volunteered for a community project before and/or after the September 11 terrorist attacks based on respondents’ answers to when they had volunteered for a community project. Independent Variables Moral Languages. To measure respondents’ recourse to different moral languages in the domain of civic engagement, we relied on the survey question that asked “For you, what would be the most important reason to help the needy?...Would it be because: 1) It makes you personally feel good; 2) It is your civic responsibility; or 3) It is your religious duty.” Although using a single survey question to measure a concept as broad as “moral languages” may seem less than ideal, the question captures quite well the logic of the Bellah team’s ([1985] 1996) theory. Since respondents had to choose a single justification for a very general moral commitment, the question directly taps a respondent’s “first [moral] language.” The question thus captures the respondent’s primary source of moral authority, whether it be in the self, in society, or in religion. We coded each response as a dichotomous variable, primarily treating the individualist response as the reference category in our multivariate analyses. 7

Authors: Beyerlein, Kraig. and Vaisey, Stephen.
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asked to conduct the interview with the person in the household who had the most recent
birthday. All non-household numbers (business, government, nonprofit, etc.) were screened out
of the sample through direct calling dispositions or ascription of contact and non-contact
telephone numbers for non-completes based on proportions of household numbers among
working telephone numbers. Survey respondents were offered an incentive of 10 dollars to
complete the survey. The final sample size was 2,898. The response rate was 47 percent.
Dependent Variable
We measured civic engagement with a dichotomous variable that is coded as one if
respondents volunteered for a community project in the last year, and is coded as zero if
respondents did not volunteer for a community project in the last year. We also distinguished
whether respondents volunteered for a community project before and/or after the September 11
terrorist attacks based on respondents’ answers to when they had volunteered for a community
project.
Independent Variables
Moral Languages. To measure respondents’ recourse to different moral languages in the
domain of civic engagement, we relied on the survey question that asked “For you, what would
be the most important reason to help the needy?...Would it be because: 1) It makes you
personally feel good; 2) It is your civic responsibility; or 3) It is your religious duty.” Although
using a single survey question to measure a concept as broad as “moral languages” may seem
less than ideal, the question captures quite well the logic of the Bellah team’s ([1985] 1996)
theory. Since respondents had to choose a single justification for a very general moral
commitment, the question directly taps a respondent’s “first [moral] language.” The question
thus captures the respondent’s primary source of moral authority, whether it be in the self, in
society, or in religion. We coded each response as a dichotomous variable, primarily treating the
individualist response as the reference category in our multivariate analyses.
7


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