VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 920–939

The Determinants of Formal and Informal Volunteering: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey

Authors

    • Department of SociologyUniversity of Louisville
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11266-011-9236-y

Cite this article as:
Taniguchi, H. Voluntas (2012) 23: 920. doi:10.1007/s11266-011-9236-y

Abstract

Using data from the 2009 American Time Use Survey, this study examines to what extent time spent in major life domains such as education, paid work, domestic work, and religion is associated with individuals’ decisions to volunteer formally and informally. Consistent with earlier studies of volunteering behavior, this study finds that time spent on market and domestic works is significantly and negatively associated with both formal and informal volunteering, though in slightly different ways. Meanwhile, time spent on educational and religious activities is significantly and positively associated with only formal volunteering but not informal volunteering. Moreover, the study finds that the two forms of volunteering are complements rather than substitutes. Implications of these and other-related findings for integrating the literatures on decisions about formal and informal volunteering are discussed.

Keywords

Formal volunteeringInformal volunteeringTime allocationThe American Time Use Survey

Résumé

Mobilisant les données de l’enquête emploi du temps américaine (American Time Use Survey) de 2009, cette étude examine la relation entre le temps consacré aux activités principales de la vie telles que l’éducation, le travail rémunéré, les tâches domestiques et la religion, et les décisions individuelles d’engagement bénévole formel et informel. En cohérence avec les études précédentes concernant les comportements de bénévolat, cette étude démontre que le temps consacré au travail rémunéré et aux tâches domestiques affecte négativement et de manière importante l’engagement bénévole formel et informel, bien que de manière légèrement différente pour l’un et l’autre. D’autre part, le temps consacré aux activités éducatives et religieuses est corrélé de manière significativement positive au bénévolat formel, mais pas au bénévolat informel. Cette étude constate également que les deux formes de bénévolat sont complémentaires plutôt que substituables. Sont enfin discutées les conséquences de ces constatations, en vue d’une intégration à la littérature portant sur les décisions liées au bénévolat formel et informel.

Zusammenfassung

Die vorliegende Studie untersucht anhand von Daten der in 2009 durchgeführten Amercian Time Use Survey, einer Studie zur Zeitverwendung, in welchem Umfang die in wichtigen Lebensbereichen, wie Bidlung, bezahlte Arbeit, Hausarbeit und Religion, aufgebrachte Zeit mit der Entscheidung einzelner Personen, formale oder informale ehrenamtliche Tätigkeiten zu leisten, in Verbindung steht. In Übereinstimmung mit früheren Studien zu Verhaltensweisen ehrenamtlich Tätiger zeigt diese Studie, dass die Zeit, die mit bezahlten und häuslichen Tätigkeiten verbracht wird, bedeutend und negativ mit sowohl formalen als auch informalen ehrenamtlichen Tätigeiten in Verbindung gebracht wird, wenn auch auf etwas unterschiedliche Weise. Währenddessen wird die Zeit, die für Tätigkeiten in den Bereichen Bildung und Religion aufgebracht wird, bedeutend und positiv mit lediglich formalen, nicht aber informalen ehrenamtlichen Tätigkeiten in Verbindung gebracht. Weitherhin ergibt die Studie, dass sich die beiden Formen ehrenamtlicher Tätigkeiten vielmehr ergänzen, als dass sie sich ersetzen. Die Folgerungen dieser und weiterer ähnlicher Ergebnisse zur Integration der Literaturen bei der Entscheidung über formale und informale ehrenamtliche Tätigkeit werden diskutiert.

Resumen

Utilizando datos del American Time Use Survey de 2009 (encuesta americana sobre el uso del tiempo), este estudio examina en qué medida el tiempo dedicado a campos importantes de la vida, tales como la educación, el trabajo remunerado, el trabajo en el hogar y la religión está asociado a las decisiones de los individuos de realizar voluntariado formal o informalmente. Coherente con estudios anteriores sobre el comportamiento del voluntariado, este estudio encuentra que el tiempo dedicado al trabajo de mercado y al trabajo en el hogar se asocia de manera significativa y negativa tanto al voluntariado formal como al informal, aunque de modos ligeramente diferentes. En cambio, el tiempo dedicado a actividades educativas y religiosas se asocia de manera significativa y positiva solamente al voluntariado formal y no al voluntariado informal. Asimismo, el estudio encuentra que las dos formas de voluntariado son complementos más que sustitutos. Se tratan las implicaciones de éstos y otros hallazgos relacionados para integrar los materiales publicados sobre decisiones sobre el voluntariado formal e informal.

摘要

利用2009美国时间利用调查的数据,本研究了主要生活领域(如教育、有酬工作、家务劳动和宗教)的时间花费与正式和非正式的个人志愿服务行为之间关系。与以往的志愿服务行为研究结果相同,本研究发现市场工作和家务劳动的时间花费与正式和非正式的志愿服务时间是显著负相关的,尽管方式略有不同。同时,教育和宗教活动的时间花费仅与正式的志愿活动显着正相关;这一结论对非正式志愿服务不成立。此外,研究发现两种形式的志愿服务更接近于互补关系,而非替代。本文对这些以及其他正式和非正式志愿对决定影响的文献结论进行了讨论。.

要約

本研究では2009年度のアメリカ国民生活時間調査報告書のデータを用いて、教育、賃金労働、国内労働、宗教などの主要な人生のドメインで費やされる時間が、公式・非公式のボランティアを行う際の個人の決定と関連するかを調査する。ボランティアの行動に関する先行研究と一致して、本研究ではマーケット・ワークと国内労働で費やされる時間が、方法は異なるにしても、公式・非公式のボランティアと非常にマイナスの関連性を持つことがわかった。その一方で、教育活動および宗教活動に費やされる時間は非公式のボランティアではなく、公式のボランティアのみと非常にプラスの関連性を持つことがわかった。さらに研究より、2つのボランティアの形式は代理ではなく補足であることが明らかである。公式・非公式のボランティアの決定における文献を統合する本研究と他の関連結果について議論する。.

ملخص

بإستخدام بيانات من إستطلاع الرأي 2009 لإستخدام الوقت الأمريكي، هذه الدراسة تفحص إلى أي مدى قضاء الوقت في مجالات الحياة الرئيسة مثل التعليم، العمل بأجر، العمل المنزلي، و الدين يرتبط مع قرارات الأفراد للتطوع الرسمي و الغير رسمي. هذه الدراسة تتفق مع الدراسات السابقة للسلوك التطوعي، ووجدت الوقت الذي يقضيه الأفراد في عمل السوق و العمل المنزلي يرتبط بشكل ملحوظ و سلبي بكل من العمل التطوعي الرسمي و الغير رسمي، و مع ذلك بطرق مختلفة قليلاً. في الوقت نفسه، الوقت المستغرق في الأنشطة التعليمية و الدينية يرتبط بشكل ملحوظ و إيجابي بالعمل التطوعي الرسمي فقط و ليس العمل التطوعي الغير رسمي. علاوة على ذلك، الدراسة وجدت أن شكلين العمل التطوعي يكملان بعضهما بدلاً أن يكونا بدائل. تمت مناقشة الآثار المترتبة على هذه النتائج، والأخرى ذات الصلة لإدماج الآداب في القرارات حول العمل التطوعي الرسمي و الغير رسمي.

Introduction

Many researchers examine individuals’ decisions to volunteer from a perspective that considers time constraints and resources in major life domains, including market and domestic works, as significant determinants of volunteering. The constraints side of this perspective posits that time spent in one life domain can set an upper limit for time in another domain. Hours employed are thus commonly considered as constraining volunteer work (Goss 1999; Rossi 2001; Taniguchi 2006). Indeed, the median annual hours spent on formal volunteer activities is the highest for those age 65 and over (BLS 2011), the majority of whom are not in the labor force. Despite the importance of the constraints argument in explaining volunteering decisions, however, earlier research also suggests that the increased time constraints do not always indicate a lower probability of doing volunteer work, and that time at the workplace, under certain circumstances, may provide easy access to volunteering resources (Wilensky 1961). Long hours spent on paid work are shown to have little or no effect on formal volunteering among the employed (Freeman 1997; Becker and Hofmeister 2000). Multiple job holders, usually faced with greater time pressure, are more and not less likely to volunteer (Freeman 1997; Wilson and Musick 1997a), and so are individuals with a high status occupation who are often said to be overworked (Jacobs and Gerson 1998). Researchers typically interpret or speculate on these somewhat counterintuitive patterns in the context of resources or social networks that tend to be more available to individuals with stronger labor force attachment.

In this study, from the constraints/resources perspective just mentioned, I examine effects of time spent in various life domains—education, market work, domestic work, and religion—on individuals’ volunteering decisions in the US. Research on volunteering behavior among Americans, mainly due to data availability, often focuses on formal volunteering, usually defined as the contribution of unpaid labor for or through an organization (US Census Bureau 2010; BLS 2011). By comparison, this study considers informal as well as formal volunteering with time diary data from the 2009 American Time Use Survey. The use of daily data is well suited for examining how people’s time use in major life domains is associated with their decisions to engage in volunteer work. Bivariate probit models are applied to simultaneously predict decisions to participate in volunteer work of both types.

Formal Versus Informal Volunteering

This study defines both formal and informal volunteering as unpaid work that is carried out for a charitable, social, or political purpose while distinguishing the two by whether one engages in unpaid labor in a formal organizational setting (e.g., food bank, school, church, animal shelter) or as part of informal networks of extended families, friends, and neighbors. Helping those who are in need is an important aspect of both types of volunteering, and activities carried out toward this end (e.g., cooking and serving food, cleaning, automobile maintenance, mentoring youths, collecting money, legal assistance) can be very similar between the two settings.

Beyond the similarities, formal volunteering differs from informal volunteering for its broader scope of activities involved. That is, formal volunteering may empower individuals to express their preferences and values via artistic/cultural pursuits and political mobilization. This aspect of formal volunteer work appears to be especially important in countries with social democratic traditions where the state provides relatively generous social welfare services (Salamon and Sokolowski 2001), but can still be relevant in liberal democratic countries such as the US. It is the objective of this study to compare significant determinants of formal and informal volunteering, and to examine the relationship between the two above and beyond those determinants.

Constraints/Resources Framework

Given the differences as well as similarities between formal and informal volunteering, this study examines how time constraints in different life domains, e.g., paid work, domestic work, education, and religion, affect volunteering in the respective settings. How do variables that promote one type of volunteering influence the other type of volunteering? More generally, how are decisions that govern the two types of volunteering related? Or to put it in economics terms, are the two types of volunteering complements or substitutes?

The time individuals spend to fulfill their employment and domestic responsibility is likely to impose great constraints on their chance to engage in volunteer activities, formal or informal (Hypothesis 1). With formal volunteering, I expect the negative effect of time spent on paid work to be attenuated when the analysis disregards worker characteristics that are likely to be positively correlated with time on paid work (Hypothesis 2). These include holding multiple jobs, being in a managerial/professional occupation, and having more years of formal education. (That is, these worker characteristics may serve as suppressors.) Multiple job holders are perhaps more likely to engage in formal volunteer work (Freeman 1997) because they are part of a broader social network, and therefore are often asked to volunteer formally. Those with a high status occupation who are also likely to have a high level of education may be encouraged or even pressured by others to participate in formal volunteer work (Lemon et al. 1972; Smith 1975; Wilson 2000).

Time spent on educational activities, while imposing certain time constraints, may provide resources (e.g., readers, fairs, trainings) that facilitate formal volunteering (Hypothesis 3). Many colleges and universities today have offices dedicated to promoting volunteering among their students (and staff). There have been increasingly more courses not limited to social science subjects (Kornwitz 2008) that combine classroom learning with community work. In service learning, participating in community work is a means by which students are expected to gain a real world understanding of the course material. In the process, the students may also be able to establish a habit of formal volunteering.

Education may be thought to foster not only formal but also informal social capital, which may in turn promote informal volunteer work. Gesthuizen et al. (2008) find in their analysis of 28 European countries a significant positive relationship between education and informal (as well as formal) social support. However, they also find that a contextual factor such as educational expansion significantly mitigates the positive effect of educational attainment on informal help. Considering the relatively high level of educational expansion in the US, one may expect the effect of education on informal volunteering to be negligible. Overall, there is limited evidence to hypothesize educational activities promote informal volunteering.

I expect that time spent on religious activities will provide resources to facilitate formal volunteering. Studies have shown a significant and positive effect of religiosity, typically measured by the frequency of service attendance and/or the level of participation in organized religion, on formal volunteering (Jackson et al. 1995; Park and Smith 2000; Wilson 2000; Wilson and Musick 1997a; Wuthnow 1991, 1999). Evidence is more limited as to how time spent on religious activities influences informal volunteering. On the one hand, many religions emphasize the responsibility of helping the needy (Hodgkinson and Weitzman 1990; Wuthnow 1991, 1994, 1999), and thus time spent on religious activities may promote volunteering, be it in a formal or informal setting. On the other hand, while individuals may be inspired by their religious faiths to volunteer their time, they may be inclined to do so in a formal setting where they can publicly demonstrate their good behavior. Wuthnow (1994) noted that in the religious community formal volunteering tends to be highly valued because it allows congregants to dramatize that they are living up to their religious ideals. Indeed, a study based in the Netherlands finds that religious attendance promotes formal but not informal volunteering (Tienen et al. 2010). Therefore, this study hypothesizes that time spent on religious activities will promote formal volunteering but have little or no effect on informal volunteering (Hypothesis 4).

This study looks at time in terms of not only where (i.e., in what life domain) but also with whom it is spent. Time we spend with our family and friends may be thought of as indicating the extent of our social ties. Studies have shown that the more social ties individuals have, the more likely they are to volunteer their time (Wilson and Musick 1997a; Wilson 2000). There are various types of social ties, including family ties, friendship circles, and formal organizational networks, but it has been argued that personal, informal connections tend to be more effective in recruiting individuals into volunteer activities (Midlarsky and Kahana 1994; McAdam and Paulsen 1993). Individuals are more likely to trust recommendations made by their family and friends than those of some strangers. This study investigates whether informal ties matter equally for formal and informal volunteering, or these ties matter more for one than the other type of volunteering. Wilson and Musick (1997a) find informal social interaction to be significantly and positively associated with formal, but not with informal, volunteering. Yet, unlike informal volunteering, formal volunteering often encourages or even requires participants to leave their comfort zones and relate to others in the larger community. It is thus doubtful that close personal interaction greatly aids in effective interaction with others in the broader context (Uslaner 2002). I hypothesize that although time with family and friends will promote both types of volunteering, the positive effect will be greater for informal than formal volunteering (Hypothesis 5).

So far, in terms of what may affect individuals’ volunteering behavior, the focus has been on the type of variables that can be measured. But what can we say about unobservable (unmeasured) variables linked to formal and informal volunteering? Often mentioned psychological/attitudinal facilitators of formal volunteering include altruistic tendencies, perceived social pressure, generativity, and “feel good” desires (Rossi 2001; Wilson 2000), and they may also possibly promote informal volunteer work. In many situations, however, data on these (and other similar) variables are unavailable, which is the case with this study. Fortunately, there is a statistical tool that allows us to characterize the relationship between decisions that govern formal and informal volunteering as complementary, substitutive, or independent. This is done by examining the correlation of two binary variables with a bivariate probit model where an error term has a bivariate normal distribution with means of 0 and variances of 1 (Greene 2012). This correlation (or tetrachoric correlation) represents what “would be measured between the underlining continuous variables if they could be observed” (Greene 2012, p. 741). Using a similar approach, Hank and Stuck (2008) analyzed data from a cross-national sample of adults 50 and older in eleven European countries and established a complementary relationship between formal and informal volunteering. As noted earlier, formal and informal volunteering greatly overlap in scope in the US. Thus, if the relationship between the two types of volunteering is complementary in Europe, it is highly likely that it will also be complementary in the US (Hypothesis 6).

Time Diary Data

Secondary data analyses of volunteering behavior in the US often consider only formal but not informal volunteer work presumably because of data availability. Numerous surveys asked about how many hours had been spent monthly or yearly on formal volunteering in various areas such as health, education, religion, human services, and politics. These surveys include the Americans’ Changing Lives Survey (ACLS), Current Population Survey (CPS), General Social Survey (GSS), Midlife in the United States (MIDUS), and National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH).

By contrast, time spent on informal unpaid work, including informal volunteering, is not as readily available. For instance, the CPS only asks questions about unpaid work to clarify labor force status of those who do unpaid work in family business or farm. Even though specific hours spent on informal volunteering were asked (e.g., ACLS), responses may have been unreliable as individuals tend to offer help more spontaneously as part of informal networks than they are in a formal setting, and thus the respondents may have had difficulty recalling exactly how much of such work they actually had done, either monthly or yearly.

Given the focus of this study, i.e., how time spent in various life domains (e.g., paid work and domestic work) affects volunteering, detailed and reliable information on how time was spent on various types of activities from the ATUS is certainly valuable. More specifically, time spent on various activities is measured with the same unit (e.g., minutes), and this allows us to make a straightforward comparison across activities.

There are also some possible limitations in the ATUS data. Only one “diary day” was selected for each respondent. A likely mismatch of the reference period of the data with the ideal time frame for a certain type of activities (e.g., formal volunteering) can restrict the choice of statistical models. Another issue is that the time diary component of the ATUS exclusively (with the exception of child care) concerns the primary activity. This may or may not be a limitation depending on the focus of each study. For instance, the ATUS would be unsuitable for a study about how individuals engage in multiple tasks encompassing different life domains. Meanwhile, if researchers work on the premise that for most part our life is compartmentalized into different segments—e.g., education, paid work, domestic work, religious life, and community life—the focus on primary activities should not be a serious matter.

Methods

Data

This study draws on data from the 2009 American Time Use Survey (ATUS). The survey for 2009 was chosen because it was the most recent one available when this study started. The ATUS, which was launched in 2003, provides nationally representative data on “how they spent their time on the previous day, where they were, and whom they were with” (US Census Bureau 2010, p. 1). The survey provides the only federal data covering the full range of nonmarket activities including volunteering. The ATUS sample is drawn from Outgoing Rotation Groups of the Current Population Survey (CPS) sample of the “civilian, noninstitutional population residing in occupied households in the United States” (US Census Bureau 2010, p. 8), and thus, the ATUS data can be merged with the CPS data. This allows investigators to incorporate variables not covered in the ATUS (e.g., citizenship status, the level of formal education).

Despite the official claim of the national representativeness of the ATUS sample, rates of response to the ATUS have generally been low (Abraham et al. 2006, 2009). The response rate in 2009 was 53%, which is admittedly less than ideal. The ATUS-CPS file, available from the BLS website (http://www.bls.gov/tus/), contains person and household level data on a wide range of topics, including many of the variables used in this study, for ATUS respondents and ATUS non-respondents, i.e., those who had been selected for participation in the ATUS but did not participate. A preliminary analysis based on the ATUS-CPS file suggested that the ATUS respondents represent higher proportions of women, whites, the US-born, and the married. The ATUS respondents also tend to be older and more highly educated. (Results of this preliminary analysis are not tabled.) Although the use of the final weights provided by the BLS takes into account nonresponse (US Census Bureau 2010, p. 28), there remains a potential bias from nonresponse. Results from this study should thus be taken with caution.

The ATUS uses a combination of structured and conversational interviews consisting of four sections: the household roster, the time diary, the summary questions, and a section intended to update time-sensitive CPS data on labor force status, industry and occupation, earnings, etc. (US Census Bureau 2010). Key information for this study is from the time diary section of the ATUS. In this section, the ATUS respondents were asked to give a detailed account of their activities “starting at 4 a.m. the previous day and ending at 4 a.m. on the interview day” (US Census Bureau 2010, p. 13), about how long and where each reported activity took place. With some exceptions (e.g., sleeping), they were also asked about who had been with them during each reported activity.

One major limitation of time use data that focus on a single day is the presence of many zeros assigned on time variables for certain activities that are typically not pursued on a daily basis (e.g., volunteering). For those activities, there is likely to be a mismatch between the reference period of the data (i.e., the time diary day) and the time frame that researchers may ideally want to apply (e.g., week, month, year). This limitation partly accounts for the choice of statistical models in this study (see the “Model” section).

Dependent Variables

My dependent variables are based on the time spent on formal and informal volunteering. In our main analysis I consider both types of volunteer work as dichotomous variables (1 = volunteer; 0 = non-volunteer). The ATUS defines formal volunteering as being carried out for or though an organization (US Census Bureau 2010). Specifically, it includes providing administrative support, social service, indoor/outdoor maintenance, building, and clean-up operations, participating in performance and cultural activities, attending meetings, conferences, and training, and working in the areas of public health and safety. In this study, informal volunteering is defined as caring for and providing help to non-household members including both children and adults.

Independent Variables

To reiterate, this study examines how time spent in major life domains influences individuals’ decisions to do formal and informal volunteering. Specifically, I consider market work, nonmarket work (i.e., housework and caregiving), education, and religion.

Market work includes not only paid work that generates income, but also job search and interviews, as defined by the ATUS. Housework encompasses a wide range of activities such as food/drink preparation, presentation and clean-up, interior/exterior maintenance, repair, decoration, yard work, animal/pet care, repair and maintenance of vehicles, appliances, tools, and toys, and household management (e.g., paying the bills). Caregiving is defined as caring for and helping household members, including both children and adults. Beyond attending classes, educational activities include extracurricular school activities, research/homework, and tasks related to registration/administrative. Religious activities include religious/spiritual practices, and these can take place at home as well as in public.

As mentioned earlier, in this study, I look at time in terms of not only where but with whom it was spent. Specifically, time with family and time with friends are considered. For each time variable, the original minutes were converted into hours.

Several controls are included because of their known or hypothesized links to formal and/or informal volunteering and to at least one of the key independent variables.

The first set is basic demographic variables: age, gender, race, and citizenship status.

Citizenship is relatively unexplored as a correlate of volunteering, especially in studies of national scope. The foreign-born and non-citizens, in particular, may have a narrower social circle in the country of residence, which may limit their formal volunteering. Gender is coded as 0 for male and 1 for female. Age is measured in years. Race is measured with three categories: 1 = white (referent), 2 = black, 3 other. Citizenship status is measured with three categories: 1 = US-born (referent), 2 = foreign-born and naturalized, 3 = foreign-born and non-citizen.

The second set of controls is socioeconomic variables: education, managerial/professional background, and multiple job holding. Education is operationalized as the highest level of school ever completed, ranging from “less than 1st grade” to “doctoral degree.” Both occupational background and multiple job holding are binary variables. The third set of controls is family variables: marital status and the presence of children by age group to be included as binary variables.

Model

My data indicate that the proportions of those who did formal and informal volunteering are quite low. The rate of participation in formal volunteering is especially low at 7.5%. For a comparison, the annual rate of formal volunteering based on the September 2010 CPS is 26.3% (BLS 2011). The gap is not surprising as the ATUS considers a single day. The censored data on time volunteered make the use of OLS regressions problematic. Although the Tobit regression may be appropriate, Stewart’s simulation study (2009) shows that marginal effects from the Tobit regressions are likely to be downward biased, and the extent of the bias increases along with the fraction of zeros. The fractions of zeros for my dependent variables on informal and formal volunteering are indeed quite large. I thus use the probit regression models. The probit models provide asymptotically consistent, efficient, and unbiased estimates when the assumption of normality among the predictors is violated, unlike OLS.

More specifically, bivariate probit models are used to examine how time spent in major life domains, such as education, paid work, domestic work, and religion, is associated with individuals’ decisions to volunteer formally and informally. Estimating two separate probit regressions poses a problem to this study if the decisions to engage in formal and informal volunteering are correlated to each other. The bivariate probit model allows for the simultaneous estimation of the respective types of volunteering decisions while incorporating a parameter (ρ) for the correlation between unobservable variables that are associated with each dependent variable (Greene 2012). As discussed earlier, these variables could include, but are not limited to, altruism, perceived social pressure, generativity, and feel good desires. A significant positive (negative) correlation parameter suggests that the two types of volunteering are likely to be complements (substitutes). One example that uses the bivariate probit model is found in Lee and Moo (2011) examining Korean immigrants’ decisions to volunteer for mainstream versus ethnic organizations (see Hank and Stuck (2008) for their use of a similar, but extended model).

Findings

Descriptive Analysis

7.5% of the respondents participated in formal volunteering. Of these participants, mean and median daily hours of formal volunteering are 2.1 and 1.5, respectively.

The two most common types of activities are “administrative and support activities” and “social service and care activities (except medical).” 47.4% of the participants said that children/grandchildren were present at the site of their volunteering activities, and 36.8% said that they were alone while they volunteered.

13.3% of the respondents participated in informal volunteering (or helping). Of these informal participants, mean and median daily hours of informal volunteering are 1.1 and 0.4, respectively. 40.2% of the participants helped non-household children, and 65.5% helped non-household adults. 5.8% of the participants provided help to both non-household children and adults. 78.2% of the participants said that children/grandchildren were present at the site of their helping activities, and 22% said that they were with their household family members while providing help to members of other households.

While formal and informal volunteering are not mutually exclusive activities, very few (176) respondents did both formal and informal volunteering, which is not surprising given the study’s use of measurement based on a single day.

Table 1 presents the weighted means or frequencies of my independent variables by volunteer status. For continuous variables, standard deviations and ranges are presented. The between-group comparisons, i.e., those who did versus did not engage in formal volunteering, and those who did versus did not engage in informal volunteering, of means are made with the t tests, and of frequencies are made with the Chi-square tests.
Table 1

Summary statistics

Variable

Formal volunteering

Difference

Informal volunteering

Difference

Yes n = 983

No n = 12150

Yes n = 1767

No n = 11366

Mean

(SD)

Mean

(SD)

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Formal volunteering [0, 1]

1.00

0.00

 

0.096

0.067

***

Informal volunteering [0, 1]

0.181

0.129

***

1.00

0.00

 

Time on paid work [0, 22.500]

2.529 (3.929)

3.310 (4.233)

***

2.004 (3.412)

3.447 (4.296)

***

Time on housework [0, 20.666]

1.807 (2.208)

1.833 (2.274)

 

1.786 (2.173)

1.838 (2.284)

 

Time on domestic care [0, 17.000]

0.401 (1.028)

0.467 (1.297)

 

0.340 (1.047)

0.481 (1.313)

***

Time on educational activities [0, 17.516]

0.472 (1.876)

0.432 (1.699)

 

0.428 (1.609)

0.436 (1.726)

 

Time on religious activities [0, 10.650]

0.393 (0.931)

0.127 (0.574)

***

0.182 (0.643)

0.140 (0.602)

*

Time with family members [0, 21.000]

5.389 (4.571)

4.906 (4.596)

**

6.000 (4.753)

4.778 (4.551)

***

Time with friends [0, 22.733]

1.141 (2.368)

0.830 (2.166)

**

1.584 (2.916)

0.739 (2.024)

***

Age [15, 85]

48.382 (18.527)

43.928 (18.295)

***

42.414 (18.570)

44.523 (18.299)

**

Female [0, 1]

0.520

0.515

 

0.585

0.505

***

Race

 White [0, 1]

0.855

0.828

 

0.833

0.829

 

 Black [0, 1]

0.099

0.121

 

0.118

0.120

 

 Other [0, 1]

0.047

0.051

 

0.048

0.051

 

Citizenship

 US-born [0, 1]

0.941

0.863

***

0.909

0.863

***

 Naturalized [0, 1]

0.033

0.052

*

0.035

0.053

**

 Non-citizen [0, 1]

0.025

0.085

***

0.056

0.084

**

Education [1, 16]

10.874 (2.863)

9.903 (2.816)

***

9.858 (2.736)

9.989 (2.844)

 

Managerial/professional [0, 1]

0.324

0.232

***

0.201

0.244

**

Multiple job holder [0, 1]

0.061

0.058

 

0.058

0.059

 

Married [0, 1]

0.651

0.524

***

0.456

0.545

***

Children aged <6 [0, 1]

0.097

0.142

***

0.088

0.147

***

Children aged 6–12 [0, 1]

0.145

0.093

***

0.072

0.100

***

Children aged 13–17 [0, 1]

0.062

0.051

 

0.051

0.052

 

Note Significance based on two-tailed t tests for continuous variables and chi-squire tests for categorical variables

* P < 0.05, ** P < 0.01, *** P < 0.001

Regression Analysis

Table 2 presents estimates from the bivariate probit model predicting formal and informal volunteering. In addition, Table 3 includes marginal effects for selected four outcomes: participating in formal volunteer work (Column 1), informal volunteer work (Column 2), formal volunteer work given participation in informal volunteer work (Column 3), and informal volunteer work given participation in formal volunteer work (Column 4).
Table 2

Bivariate probit model predicting formal and informal volunteering

Variable

Formal volunteering, dv1

Informal volunteering, dv2

β

SE

 

β

SE

 

Time on paid work

−0.037

0.008

***

−0.027

0.006

***

Time on housework

−0.030

0.011

**

−0.023

0.010

*

Time on domestic care

−0.021

0.015

 

−0.059

0.016

***

Time on educational activities

0.042

0.016

**

−0.044

0.013

**a

Time on religious activities

0.221

0.025

***

0.008

0.027

a

Time with family members

−0.010

0.006

 

0.048

0.005

***a

Time with friends

0.028

0.009

**

0.062

0.008

***b

Age

0.005

0.002

**

−0.005

0.001

***a

Female

−0.005

0.046

 

0.174

0.040

***b

Race

 White

 Black

−0.122

0.066

 

−0.067

0.060

 

 Other

0.076

0.104

 

0.038

0.089

 

Citizenship

 US-born

 Naturalized

−0.340

0.112

**

−0.175

0.092

c

 Non-citizen

−0.510

0.099

***

−0.208

0.089

*b

Education

0.052

0.010

***

0.012

0.008

 

Managerial/professional

0.149

0.054

**

−0.061

0.050

b

Multiple job holder

0.018

0.088

 

0.113

0.079

 

Married

0.248

0.060

***

−0.192

0.048

***a

Children aged < 6

−0.056

0.077

 

−0.365

0.068

***b

Children 6–12

0.298

0.066

***

−0.197

0.062

**a

Children 13–17

0.098

0.083

 

0.004

0.077

 

Constant

−2.199

0.178

***

−1.038

0.137

***a

ρ

0.106(0.034)**

F(40,12416)

18.54

Sample size

 

Note Significance based on t tests. * P < 0.05, ** P < 0.01, *** P < 0.001

a Significant difference between formal and informal volunteering at the 0.001 level

b Significant difference between formal and informal volunteering at the 0.01 level

c Significant difference between formal and informal volunteering at the 0.05 level

Table 3

Bivariate probit models predicting formal and informal volunteering (marginal effects)

 

Marginal probabilities

Conditional probabilities

 

Formal volunteering Column 1

Informal volunteering Column 2

Formal volunteering Column 3

Informal volunteering Column 4

 

dv1 = 1

dv2 = 1

dv1 = 1 | dv2 = 1

dv2 = 1 | dv1 = 1

Variable

dy/dx

SE

 

dy/dx

SE

 

dy/dx

SE

 

dy/dx

SE

 

Time on paid work

−0.004

0.001

***

−0.005

0.001

***

−0.005

0.001

***

−0.006

0.002

***

Time on housework

−0.003

0.001

**

−0.005

0.002

*

−0.004

0.002

**

−0.005

0.002

*

Time on domestic care

−0.002

0.002

 

−0.012

0.003

***

−0.002

0.002

 

−0.014

0.004

***

Time on educational activities

0.005

0.002

*

−0.009

0.003

**

0.007

0.003

**

−0.012

0.003

**

Time on religious activities

0.026

0.003

***

0.002

0.005

 

0.033

0.005

***

−0.003

0.007

 

Time with family members

−0.001

0.001

 

0.009

0.001

***

−0.002

0.001

*

0.012

0.002

***

Time with friends

0.003

0.001

**

0.012

0.002

***

0.003

0.001

**

0.015

0.002

***

Age

0.001

0.000

**

−0.001

0.000

***

0.001

0.000

**

−0.001

0.000

***

Female

−0.001

0.005

 

0.034

0.008

***

−0.003

0.007

 

0.043

0.010

***

Race

 White

            

 Black

−0.013

0.007

*

−0.013

0.011

 

−0.016

0.009

 

−0.014

0.014

 

 Other

0.009

0.013

 

0.008

0.018

 

0.011

0.017

 

0.008

0.022

 

Citizenship

 US-born

            

 Naturalized

−0.031

0.008

***

−0.032

0.015

*

−0.039

0.011

***

−0.034

0.020

 

 Non-citizen

−0.042

0.006

***

−0.037

0.014

**

−0.055

0.009

***

−0.038

0.019

 

Education

0.006

0.001

***

0.002

0.002

 

0.008

0.002

***

0.002

0.002

 

Managerial/professional

0.018

0.007

*

−0.012

0.010

 

0.024

0.009

**

−0.018

0.012

 

Multiple job holder

0.002

0.010

 

0.024

0.018

 

0.001

0.013

 

0.029

0.022

 

Married

0.028

0.007

***

−0.038

0.010

***

0.039

0.010

***

−0.054

0.013

***

Children aged <6

−0.006

0.008

 

−0.062

0.010

***

−0.004

0.011

 

−0.078

0.014

***

Children aged 6–12

0.042

0.011

***

−0.035

0.010

***

0.056

0.014

***

−0.051

0.013

***

Children aged 13–17

0.012

0.011

 

0.001

0.015

 

0.016

0.014

 

−0.001

0.019

 

Note Significance based on t tests. * P < 0.05, ** P < 0.01, *** P < 0.001

dy/dx denotes the derivative of y with respect to x, or the rate of change of y with respect to the rate of change of x

Consistent with earlier studies of volunteering using conventional survey data (e.g., Goss 1999; Rossi 2001; Taniguchi 2006), this study, based on time diary data, finds that time spent on market and housework is significantly and negatively associated with both formal and informal volunteer work. Giving care to household family members is only significantly and negatively associated with the chance of informal volunteering but not with the chance of formal volunteering. This difference between formal and informal volunteering is insignificant, however. Hypothesis 1 is thus supported with the exception of the association (or lack thereof) between domestic care and informal volunteering.

As the coefficient of −0.004 on time on paid work under Column 1 in Table 3 shows, an additional hour spent on paid work decreases the probability of formal volunteering by 0.4%. In other words, compared to those without a job, those who spend 8 h on a job (or jobs) are 3.2% less likely to participate in volunteer work on a daily basis. In a separate analysis (not shown), the model was estimated without the worker characteristics noted earlier (e.g., education, occupation). As predicted, with formal volunteering, the adverse effect of time spent on paid work was attenuated, suggesting that these worker characteristics are likely to serve as suppressor variables, consistent with Hypothesis 2.

Also consistent with earlier studies (e.g., Gesthuizen et al. 2008; Jackson et al. 1995; Park and Smith 2000; Wuthnow 1991, 1999), time on educational and religious activities both have significant positive effects on the probability of doing formal volunteer work. These findings lend support to both Hypotheses 3 and 4. An additional hour on educational activities is associated with a 0.5% increase in the chance of doing formal volunteer work (Column 1, Table 3). The comparable percent given participation in informal volunteering is 0.7, and this conditional marginal effect becomes significant at a higher threshold (Column 3, Table 3). Interestingly, time spent on educational activities is significantly and negatively associated with the probability of doing informal volunteer work, and this is especially the case given participation in formal volunteer work (compare Columns 2 and 4, Table 3). While educational activities per se are unlikely to discourage informal volunteering, my results may indicate that many of those who spend time on educational activities are young adults living away from home and relatives who would usually ask them for help. Indeed, when I limited my sample to those who are 25 years old and over and re-ran the model, the effect of time spent at school, while still negative, was no longer significant. (Otherwise, the results from this additional analysis are similar to the results reported in Table 2.) An additional hour spent on religious activities significantly increases the probability of doing formal volunteer work on a day by 2.6%. Time on religious activities has no significant effect on informal volunteering, consistent with Hypothesis 4. As Table 2 shows, the differences in the effects that the hours spent on educational and religious activities have on the probabilities of doing formal versus informal volunteer work are both significant at the 0.001 level.

Time with family has a significant and positive effect on informal volunteering, but it has no significant effect on formal volunteering. By comparison, time with friends is significantly and positively associated with both the probabilities of participating in formal and informal volunteer work. This effect, however, is significantly larger for informal than formal volunteering. These results are consistent with the earlier statistics showing that formal volunteering tends to be more “solitary” activities when compared to informal volunteering. Hypothesis 5 is supported with the exception of the association (or lack thereof) between time with family and formal volunteering.

For the most part, the control variables have the expected effects while there are some exceptions. The significant effects of my educational and occupational variables on formal volunteering are consistent with the notion that higher socioeconomic status promotes formal volunteering. Inconsistent with earlier studies (e.g., Freeman 1997; Wilson and Musick 1997a), however, the effect of multiple job holding has no significant effect on formal volunteering. The effect of marital status on formal volunteering is as expected, but somewhat interestingly, married people are significantly less likely to do informal volunteer work.

Consistent with Hypothesis 6, derived from Hank and Stuck (2008), the size, direction, and significance of the rho (0.105, t = 3.11, P = .002, Table 2) indicates that the two forms of volunteering are complements as opposed to substitutes. In a separate analysis (not shown), data were analyzed separately by gender to see if the relationship between the unobservable variables associated with formal and informal volunteering mentioned earlier is different between men and women. We often find women volunteers in social and health service areas (where they often perform helping tasks) and men volunteers in political, economic, and scientific fields. One may thus expect a stronger complementary relationship between the two types of volunteer work for women. This additional analysis showed that this was indeed the case. The coefficients on most of the predictors did not significantly differ by gender, however.

Discussion

Our everyday lives are compartmentalized for the most part. Although multitasking across life domains has become easier due to technological, social, and attitudinal changes (e.g., listening to an online lecture and watching a child at the same time), we still often allocate time across separate domains while anticipating that time spent in one domain sets an upper limit for time to be spent elsewhere. Using data from the 2009 American Time Use Survey, the only federal data covering the full range of nonmarket activities, this study examines how time spent on paid work, domestic work, and educational and religious activities influences individuals’ decisions to volunteer formally or informally. This study contributes to the ever expanding literature on volunteering behavior by utilizing direct measures of time allocation across various life domains.

Consistent with the constraints side of the time allocation perspective, this study finds that hours on paid work and housework discourage both formal and informal volunteer work. Although domestic care work discourages the both types of volunteering, this effect is significant only for informal volunteering. Time on educational activities is also negatively associated with informal volunteering, while an additional analysis suggested that many of those who spend sufficient time on education are young adults who are likely to be away from home and relatives who would usually ask them for help. Meanwhile, the resource side of the time allocation perspective is supported in terms of the effects of time spent on educational and religious activities on the probability of formal volunteering.

The study also shows that volunteering decisions are affected by not only in which life domain, but with whom, time is spent. The more time individuals spend with their family and friends, the more likely they are to engage in informal volunteer work. By comparison, only time with friends is positively associated with formal volunteering. My findings suggest that although informal social connections facilitate both types of volunteering, they matter less for formal volunteering. This differential pattern is consistent with the argument that formal volunteering often requires us to step out of our comfort zones, and thus, close social connections are less consequential compared to ties to distant others.

Despite some differences in what factors affect formal and informal volunteering and how, this study shows that on the whole the two forms of volunteering are complements rather than substitutes, which is especially the case with women. This is consistent with the fact that in the US, the primary function of formal volunteering is to serve the underserved. It seems that unobservable forces (e.g., pure altruism, impure altruism, sympathy, social pressure) that may encourage formal volunteering are also likely to be conducive to informal volunteering.

This study has some limitations. One limitation is that the ATUS only collects data on primary activities. As noted earlier, this should not be a problem if we can assume that our lives are for the most part compartmentalized into mutually exclusive or non-overlapping time segments. However, in some situations (e.g., a situation where individuals volunteer on company time), boundaries of life domains may not be clear-cut. Although the ATUS’s focus on primary activities helps us to avoid double counting, i.e., the counting of the same time slot twice, volunteer work, whether it is formal or informal, is possibly done as a secondary activity, and our measurement may thus underestimate how much time individuals spend on volunteering. Another limitation is that this study, due to its cross-sectional design, is unable to specify a causal process (or processes) for the observed patterns of individuals’ decisions to do formal and informal volunteer work. Moreover, although this study suggests that formal and informal volunteering are related as complements rather than substitutes, it is unclear exactly how one type of volunteering complements the other. Longitudinal data are necessary to examine causal relationships between decisions to volunteer formally and informally.

Indeed, one interesting venue for future studies might be to take a closer look at the boundaries of formal and informal volunteering. This is a relatively underexplored research area (Martinez et al. 2011). Existing evidence points to likely causation running from formal to informal volunteering rather than vice versa (Wilson and Musick 1997a) although causal processes have not yet been fully explained. Under what circumstances are the boundaries between the two to be blurred or crossed? What are the consequences of the interface between formal and informal volunteer work? Of course, studying these questions will require much richer data (for instance, collected through an ethnographic study).

Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The John's Hopkins University 2011