Volunteering and the long civic generation
By virtually every conceivable measure, civic participation is on the decline in America. Volunteering is one important exception. An analysis of a newly available archive of national surveys finds that the frequency with which Americans volunteer has increased 20% since the mid-1970s. However, nearly all of that increase is concentrated among older Americans, who are volunteering twice as frequent in the late 1990s as their same-aged predecessors did in the 1970s. Meanwhile, volunteering has actually decreased among middle-age adults, who once were the voluntary sector's most reliable source of donated labor. The reasons for increased volunteering among seniors remain elusive. Tests of various hypotheses, from improved health and financial conditions to increased spare time, do not explain the explosive increase. Nonetheless, it is clear that a powerful and mysterious force is pushing seniors toward greater volunteer involvement, and nonprofit groups should tap into this particularly civic age group before the Indian summer of volunteering reaches its end.
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)