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How immigration reduced volunteering in the USA: 2005–2011

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In this study, we show that an inflow of immigrants reduces volunteering, a proxy of social capital investment, in receiving communities. Since the 1960s, there has been a large decrease in social capital in the USA as well as a considerable inflow of immigrants. This increased heterogeneity of US cities may have increased the cost of investing in social capital, and thereby, reduced such investment. By using the current population survey September Volunteer Supplement for 2005–2011, we examine the relationship between the proportion of foreign-born people and social capital investment by US-born individuals, proxied by volunteering. Once we correct for immigrants’ self-selection to different destinations using a supply–push instrumental variable, we find that a 1 standard deviation increase in the proportion of foreign-born individuals in a state reduces the probability of US-born individuals volunteering by 0.09–0.15 standard deviations and cuts number of hours volunteered by 0.13–0.21 standard deviations.

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  1. For recent changes to CPS surveys, see the BLS website

  2. This same effect would be seen if quality of education abroad was lower than education in the USA.

  3. If we included foreign-born individuals in our sample, our results would be similar.

  4. However, this result for hours volunteered is not statistically significant.


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Correspondence to Tiago Freire.

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T. Freire: For comments and advice, the authors thank Haoming Liu and Jingping Li as well as other participants at the North American Regional Science Conference, European Economic Association Annual Congress, European Labour Economic Association Conference, European Regional Science Association Congress, Western Economic Association International Pacific Rim Bi-Annual Conference, Portuguese Economic Journal Meetings, APDR Congress, and seminars at the National University of Singapore, University of Nottingham, Ningbo, and Xi’an JiaoTong, Liverpool University.

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Freire, T., Li, X. How immigration reduced volunteering in the USA: 2005–2011. Ann Reg Sci 60, 119–141 (2018).

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