Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The purpose of this study is to identify the variables or types of variables that are possible predictors of organizational participation. Three categories of independent variables--ecological, situational, and individualistic variables are investigated. The sample consists of 442 rural community influentials from twelve counties in six southern states. Both the Spearman's test of correlation as well as multiple regression analysis are employed to assess the relationships among the independent and dependent variables. The zero-order correlations show that ecological variables (population size, percent white, and urbanization) and situational variables (organization availability and organization diversity) are generally highly correlated with organizational participation (p < 0.001). On the other hand, individualistic variables (occupation, education, age, and length of residence) are generally not significantly related to organizational participation, particularly in membership in influential organizations. The multiple regression analysis reveals that the three categories of variables account for about 20 percent of the variance in membership in influential organizations, and about 15 percent of the variance in the general measures of participation (simple memberships in any set of organizations, attendance at meetings and holding offices). Situational variables are found to have the most influence on membership in influential organizations, whereas population size (an ecological variable) is found to have the most influence on participation as indicated by the general measures of participation. Situational variables account for about 13.5 percent of the variance in membership in influential organizations, although the percentage of explained variance in the general measures of participation is less than 2 percent. Ecological variables, on the other hand, account for about 9 percent of the variance in organizational participation. One of the important tasks of the study is to examine whether organizational participation is related to community influence. Although there is some evidence that participation is associated with influence, the amount of variance explained by organizational participation is rather weak (less than 9 percent). Overall, the study suggests that structural variables (ecological and situational variables) are more important predictors of participation than individualistic variables. Hence, any explanation of the phenomenon of participation will be incomplete if structural factors are ignored.