Level of volunteerism in America hits record low

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Last year, the percentage of people in America donating time to charity hit its lowest level since the government began tracking volunteerism.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, the volunteer rate declined 1.1 points to a rate of 25.4 percent in 2013. Some 62.6 million people performed unpaid work through or for organizations from September 2012 to September 2013. The BLS notes that the volunteer rate for 2013 was the lowest since it began tracking the data in 2002, when the volunteer rate was 27.6 percent.

Women volunteered more than men, 28.4 percent to 22.2 percent respectively, across all major demographic groups. And people ages 35-44 years old were more likely than all other age groups to volunteer with a rate of 30.6 percent. People 20-24 year olds were the least likely to donate their time, with people in that age group volunteering at a rate of 18.5 percent.

Among racial and ethnic groups, whites volunteered at the highest rate 27.1 percent and Hispanics volunteered at the lowest levels (15.5 percent). The black volunteer rate dropped the most out of all the major racial and ethnic groups, declining 2.6 percentage points in 2013 to 18.5 percent.

More than 27 percent of employed people volunteered in 2013, with part-time workers most likely to donate their time, 31.7 percent compared with 26.8 percent for full-time workers. Unemployed and people not in the labor force volunteered at lower rates, 24.1 percent and 21.9 percent respectively.

While the volunteer rate was down last year, rates of giving show a slightly different story. According to the most recent Giving USA Foundation report, looking at charitable donations in 2012, the level of giving has been slightly increasing since massive drops in charitable donations in 2008 and 2009.

“While total charitable giving is continuing to grow, at current growth rates it is less likely to reach the 2007 benchmark high of $344.48 billion for at least six to seven years adjusted for inflation,” Patrick M. Rooney, the associate dean of academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said with the release of the report in June. “Individual giving rose 1.9 percent after inflation, perhaps reflecting the fact that the average household is still struggling in some areas.”

And while the BLS reports that volunteering was at a record low last year, Gallup reported in December that in 2013, the self-reported volunteer rate actually increased to a record high 65 percent. That same Gallup report noted that the 83 percent of people who said they made donations to charity were on the “low end.”

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