The United States: A Charitable Country

January 27th, 2010 by 

One of the nice things about the Bureau of Labor Statistics site is the centralized location of employment and labor trends data which inspires interesting articles.  Count today as one of those days; the BLS today released figures on the rates of volunteerism in the United States.  In the midst of a recession, volunteer rates increased in the United States from September 2008 to September 2009.  In fact, the percentage rate of volunteering by citizens in the United States is now .1% higher than it was in September 2006, after a falloff from that point in 2007.

Volunteering by the Numbers

To starts off this examination, note that women out-volunteer men.  30.1% of women, or 36,706,000 people, volunteered between September 2008 and 2009.  Comparatively, 23.3% of men, or 26,655,000 people, volunteered between the same dates.  The numbers are more interesting by their breakdown, however, so I present this chart of volunteering by age group.

Volunteer Percentage by Age Group, September - September, 2007 - 2008 and 2008 - 2009 (BLS)

Interestingly, the highest percentage of volunteers are 35-44 year olds.  The highest gaining age group, however, is the 45-54 year old age group.  Interestingly, these two age groups are still in the core years of their career, yet are still able to find time to volunteer.  The next graph illustrates an interesting point: people with higher educational attainment volunteer in higher numbers.  I've also included (seasonally adjusted) unemployment numbers from December 2008 and 2009:

Volunteer Rates and Unemployment by Educational Level, September - September, 2007-2008 and 2008 - 2009 (BLS)

So while volunteer rates have fallen among those with a high school diploma or less, they have been more than supplanted by those with at least some college.  This leads to a final question, how does employment status affect the numbers?  Unemployment has increased across all four educational measurements, but volunteer percentage hasn't increased proportionally.

Volunteer Percentage by Employment Status, September - September, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 (BLS)


What to make of the data?  Encouraging, at first glance.  There are more interesting charts in the report, letting us know, for example, that married couples volunteer more, and those with children volunteer more than those who don't.  All of this data comes from the first table; there are 5 more tables for you to glance through.

The salient point?  Americans volunteer, even through the rough times.  Do you volunteer?  How does it fit into your financial planning?  I'm interested in your comments!



PK started DQYDJ in 2009 to research and discuss finance and investing and help answer financial questions. He's expanded DQYDJ to build visualizations, calculators, and interactive tools.

PK lives in New Hampshire with his wife, kids, and dog.

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