Volunteer Statistics

Volunteer Statistics for the U.S., 2004

Volunteer Work

Volunteer Statistics: About 64.5 million people did volunteer work at least once from September 2003 to September 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported. The proportion of the population who offered their services without pay help during the year held steady at 28.8 percent.

These data were collected through a supplement to the September 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS). Volunteers are defined as persons who did unpaid work (except for expenses) through or for an organization. The CPS is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over.

Volunteering Among Demographic Groups

Volunteer Statistics: About 64.5 million persons, or 28.8 percent of the civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over, who offered their services without pay through or for organizations at least once from September 2003 to September 2004. One-fourth of men and about one-third of women did this kind of work in the year ended in September 2004, about the same proportions as in the prior year. Women volunteered at a higher rate than men across age groups, education levels, and other major characteristics.

Among the different age groups, persons age 35 to 44 were the most likely to volunteer, closely followed by 45- to 54-year olds and 55- to 64-year olds. The rates for these age groups were 34.2 percent, 32.8 percent, and 30.1 percent, respectively. Teenagers also had a relatively high rate, 29.4 percent, perhaps reflecting an emphasis on un-paid service-related activities in schools. Rates were lowest among persons in their early twenties (20.0 percent) and among those age 65 and over (24.6 percent). Within the latter group, rates decreased as age increased.

Parents with children under age 18 were more likely to offer their time than persons without children of that age, 36.9 percent compared with 25.4 percent. Married persons volunteered at a higher rate (33.9 percent) than never married persons (23.2 percent) and persons of other marital statuses (22.9 percent).

Whites gave of their time at a higher rate (30.5 percent) than did blacks (20.8 percent) and Asians (19.3 percent). Among Hispanics or Latinos, 14.5 percent volunteered.

Among employed persons, 31.2 percent had volunteered during the year ended in September 2004. By comparison, the volunteer rates of persons who were unemployed (25.6 percent) or not in the labor force (24.7 percent) were lower. Among the employed, part-time workers were more likely than full-time workers to have participated in unpaid activities--38.5 versus 29.6 percent.

Total Annual Hours Spent Volunteering

Volunteer Statistics: Volunteers spent a median of 52 hours on unpaid activities during the period from September 2003 to September 2004, unchanged from the previous two survey periods. Men spent 52 hours (median) doing volunteer work, the same as in the previous two periods. Women spent 50 hours volunteering, down from 52 hours in each of the previous periods. Median annual hours spent on volunteer activities ranged from 96 hours for helpers age 65 and over to 36 hours for those 20 to 24 years old.

Number and Type of Organizations

Volunteer Statistics: Most volunteers were involved with one or two organizations--69.6 and 19.2 percent, respectively. Individuals with higher educational attainment were more likely to volunteer for multiple organizations than were individuals with less education.

The main organization--the organization for which the volunteer worked the most hours during the year--was most frequently either religious (34.4 percent of all volunteers) or educational/youth service related (27.0 percent). Another 12.4 percent of volunteers performed activities mainly for social or community service organizations, and 7.5 percent volunteered most of their hours for hospitals or other health organizations.

Older volunteers were more likely to work mainly for religious organizations than were their younger counterparts. For example, 45.2 percent of volunteers age 65 and over performed volunteer activities mainly through or for a religious organization, compared with 28.5 percent of volunteers age 16 to 24 years. Younger individuals were more likely to volunteer through or for educational or youth service organizations.

Among volunteers with children under 18 years, 47.0 percent of mothers and 37.8 percent of fathers volunteered mainly for an educational/youth service related organization, such as a school or sports team. Parents were more than twice as likely to volunteer for such organizations as persons with no children of that age. Conversely, volunteers with no children under 18 were considerably more likely to volunteer for some other types of organizations, such as social or community service organizations.

Volunteer Activities for Main Organization

Volunteer Statistics: Among the more commonly reported volunteer activities (volunteers could report more than one activity) were fundraising or selling items to raise money (29.5 percent); coaching, refereeing, tutoring, or teaching (27.8 percent); collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food (26.4 percent); engaging in general labor (24.4 percent); and providing information, which would include being an usher, greeter, or minister (22.7 percent).

Some demographic groups were more likely to engage in certain activities than were others. For example, parents of children under the age of 18 were much more likely to coach, referee, tutor, or teach than were persons with no children of that age. College graduates were more than three times as likely as people with less than a high school diploma to provide professional or management assistance.

How Volunteers Become Involved with Their Main Organization

Volunteer Statistics: Two in five volunteers became involved with the main organization for which they did volunteer work of their own volition; that is, they approached the organization. About 42 percent were asked to become a volunteer, most often by someone in the organization.

Reasons for Not Volunteering

Volunteer Statistics: Among those who had volunteered at some point in the past, the most common reason given for not volunteering in the year ended September 2004 was lack of time (45.0 percent), followed by health or medical problems (14.4 percent), and family responsibilities or childcare problems (9.1 percent). Lack of time was the most common reason for persons in all age groups except those ages 65 and over, who reported health or medical problems as the primary reason.

Volunteering in the United States, 2004 http://www.bls.gov/cps/

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