Washington, DC (January 23, 2008)- About 60.8 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2006 and September 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. The proportion of the population who volunteered was 26.2 percent. This 0.5 percentage point decrease in the volunteer rate follows a decline of 2.1 percentage points in the prior year. The volunteer rate had held constant at 28.8 percent from 2003 through 2005, after rising slightly from its 2002 level of 27.4 percent.
In the year ending September 2007, both the number of volunteers and the volunteer rate declined from the previous year. About 29.3 percent of women did volunteer work during the year, down from 30.1 percent during the prior year. The volunteer rate for men was about unchanged at 22.9 percent. As in previous years, women volunteered at a higher rate than men across all age groups, educational levels, and other major characteristics.
By age, persons age 35 to 54 continued to be the most likely to volunteer (30.3 percent), while persons in their early twenties were the least likely (17.7 percent). The volunteer rate for teens showed the largest decline in the year ending in September 2007; the rate for females age 16 to 19 fell from 28.8 to 26.6 percent and the volunteer rate for males of that age fell from 24.1 to 22.5 percent.
Whites continued to volunteer at a higher rate (27.9 percent) than blacks (18.2 percent) and Asians (17.7 percent). Among Hispanics, 13.5 percent volunteered.
Married persons volunteered at a higher rate (31.9 percent) than those who had never married (19.2 percent) and those with other marital statuses (20.9 percent). Parents with children under age 18 were substantially more likely to volunteer than were persons without children of that age, 33.7 versus 23.2 percent.
Individuals with higher levels of educational attainment volunteered at higher rates than did those with less education. Among persons age 25 and over, more than 4 in 10 college graduates volunteered compared with fewer than 2 in 10 high school graduates and almost 1 in 10 of those with less than a high school diploma. The volunteer rate of college graduates of each sex declined more than did that of individuals of that sex with lower levels of education.
Among employed persons, 28.3 percent had volunteered during the year ended in September 2007. By comparison, 23.2 percent of unemployed persons and 22.3 percent of those not in the labor force volunteered. Among the employed, part-time workers were more likely than full-time workers to have participated in volunteer activities–35.4 versus 26.9 percent.
Total Annual Hours Spent Volunteering
Volunteers of both sexes spent a median of 52 hours on volunteer activities during the period from September 2006 to September 2007. Median annual hours spent on volunteer activities ranged from a high of 96 hours for volunteers age 65 and over to a low of 36 hours for those 25 to 34 years old.
Number and Type of Organizations
Most volunteers were involved with either one or two organizations- 68.8 and 19.7 percent, respectively. Individuals with higher educational attainment were more likely to volunteer for multiple organizations than were those with less education. Parents also were somewhat more likely to volunteer for more than one organization than were persons without children under 18.
The main organization- the organization for which the volunteer worked the most hours during the year–was most frequently religious (35.6 percent of all volunteers), followed by educational/youth service related (26.2 percent). Another 13.1 percent of volunteers performed activities mainly for social or community service organizations. (See table 4.)
Older volunteers were more likely to volunteer mainly for religious organizations than were their younger counterparts. For example, 47.2 percent of volunteers age 65 and over did their service mainly through or for a religious organization compared with 29.9 percent of volunteers age 16 to 24 years.
Among volunteers with children under 18 years old, 45.7 percent of mothers and 37.7 percent of fathers volunteered mainly for an educational/youth service-related organization, such as a school or scouting group. Volunteers without children under 18 were considerably more likely than parents to volunteer for other types of organizations, such as hospitals or other health organizations and social or community service organizations.
Main Volunteer Activity for Main Organization
When volunteers were asked the main activity they performed for their main organization, fundraising (10.9 percent) and tutoring or teaching (10.8 percent) were the most frequently reported. Men and women tended to engage in different main activities. Male volunteers were most likely to engage in general labor (12.4 percent) or to coach, referee, or supervise sports teams (10.0 percent), while female volunteers were most likely to tutor or teach (12.9 percent) or fundraise (12.4 percent).
Educational attainment influenced the types of activities volunteers performed. College graduates were more likely than those with less education to provide professional or management assistance or to tutor or teach. They were least likely to collect, prepare, distribute, or serve food or to engage in general labor.
Parents were considerably more likely than those without children to engage in some types of volunteer activities that are frequently related to children, including coaching, refereeing, or supervising sports teams; tutoring or teaching; mentoring youth; and fundraising.
How Volunteers Became Involved with Main Organization
About 44.6 percent of volunteers became involved with their main organization after being asked to volunteer, most often by someone in the organization. A slightly smaller proportion, 40.1 percent, became involved on their own initiative; that is, they approached the organization. (See table 6.)
For the full report, visit the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Volunteering in the United States- 2007.