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Education and Voluntary Work: Evidence from Turkish Time Use Survey


We use the extension of compulsory education from five to eight years in Turkey as an instrument for educational attainment to investigate the causal effects of education on voluntary work by utilizing Turkish Time Use Survey data. Existing studies use ordinary least squares regressions and establish a positive and significant association; however, such correlation may be induced by the endogeneity problems such as omitted variable bias and reverse causality. In line with the previous studies, our OLS results also show that there is a positive association between schooling and men’s voluntary work. However, when we use the education reform as an instrument for education, a different picture emerges. The exogenous education reform increased the education levels of individuals significantly. Using the education reform as an instrument for education level, we find that increased education of compliers has a negative but insignificant causal impact on the probability and hours of voluntary work for men. Our results suggest that omitted individual factors such as ability and intelligence, and unobservable family characteristics such as values and social norms are likely to have played a role in the positive association of education with voluntary work found in OLS studies.

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Data Availability

The data used in our manuscript is available from TURKSTAT upon request. We have no authority to give the data directly.


  1. OECD (2015) reports that the volunteer sector is a considerable economic force in the OECD area, where the economic value of volunteering is estimated as 1 trillion US dollars, a 1.9% substantial share of GDP.

  2. Dee (2004) also examines the causal effect of college entrance on adult civic behaviors by using several measures, including individuals’ participation in voluntary activities in the last twelve months. This study shows that college entrance is positively associated with volunteer participation; however, it has a negative but statistically insignificant causal impact on the probability of volunteering in the last twelve months. Nevertheless, Dee (2004) only examines the impact of education on the volunteering at extensive margin, but a broader empirical investigation is needed to understand the effects of schooling on the voluntary behavior of individuals.

  3. We should note that female labor force participation at around 32 percent has been low in Turkey and stagnant over time. Akyol and Okten (2022) show that religious and social norms are an impediment to female labor force participation in Turkey.

  4. Our data also confirms this result for Turkey. See, next section for the detailed information.

  5. For the US estimates, time use surveys are used. For Turkey, John Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project and regional averages compiled from a variety of sources are used for organization based and direct volunteering, respectively.

  6. The Turkish compulsory schooling reform is widely used as an instrument for education to investigate the effect of education on individual level outcomes such as labor market outcomes (Aydemir and Kirdar 2017; Torun 2018), drop-out decisions (Caner et al. 2016), political behavior outcomes (Cesur and Mocan 2018), health outcomes (Cesur et al. 2018; Kırdar et al. 2018), subjective well-being (Dursun and Cesur 2016).

  7. Turkish Time Use Survey was first conducted by TURKSTAT during the period of January 1–31 December 2006 among 5070 households and 11,815 individuals. However, the individual questionnaire of the first wave of Turkish TUS does not collect any information about individuals’ allocation of time to voluntary activities in the last four weeks. In addition, although the diary part of 2006 Turkish TUS gathers the data about time spent in voluntary activities on weekdays as well as at weekend, it does not categorize the primary activities as detail as 2014–2015 Turkish TUS. In particular, the time allocated to religious activities cannot be excluded from time spent in voluntary activities in 2006 Turkish TUS. Therefore, we do not use the diary part of 2006 Turkish TUS in our analysis as Akar & Okten (2021) show that education reduces women’ time spent in religious activities both on weekdays as well as at weekend by using 2014–2015 Turkish TUS.

  8. Note that in the Individual Questionnaire, the respondents are just asked about their time allocation to voluntary activities in the last four weeks. Therefore, we do not investigate how individuals allocate their time to other daily activities such as leisure activities, household care activities and personal care activities. Although the Diaries collect information about the other daily activities, we do not use the data from the Diaries as time reports in the Diaries are not comparable with time reports in the Individual Questionnaire. More precisely, the Diaries report respondents’ time spent in activities one for a weekday and one for a weekend, while the questionnaire reports time spent in activities for four weeks.

  9. See Table 17 in Appendix 2 for detailed explanation of the composition of voluntary work.

  10. See Table 18 in Appendix 2 for the explanation of the variables.

  11. In the Individual Questionnaire, there are five wage groups that represents the wage bracket of the respondent: Wage group 1: 0–1080 Turkish Liras, (0–397$), Wage group 2: 1081–1550 Turkish Liras (397$-570$), Wage Group 3: 1551–2170 Turkish Liras, (570$-798$), Wage Group 4: 2171–3180 Turkish Liras (798$-1169$), and Wage Group 5: 3181 Turkish Liras and higher (1169$, and higher). Minimum wage in 2014 and 2015 are 891.04 Turkish Liras, (327.5 $), and 1,000.55 Turkish Liras, (367.65$), respectively. We can consider that individuals in wage group 1 earn less than or equal to average minimum wage of Turkey in 2014 and 2015.

  12. In Turkey, informal employment is a large proportion of the total workforce. More precisely, in 2014–2015, the informal employment rate is around % 35 of the total workforce (Turkish HLFS, 2014–2015). In our data, those who report that they earn between 0 and 1080 Turkish Liras, (0–397$) in 2014–2015 are more likely to be informally employed, therefore it is possible that they may earn lower than minimum wages as an informal worker.

  13. See Table 19 in Appendix 2 for detailed explanation for the cohorts which were exposed to Turkish Compulsory Schooling Reform and the cohorts which were not.

  14. We choose the optimal bandwidth by using the STATA command rdrobust for the variable, at least middle school completion.

  15. We also estimate our model by including the birth cohort of 1986. Including those born in 1986 does not change our main results (See Table 12 in Appendix 1).

  16. We use the STATA command winsor2 with trim option to conduct outlier analysis.

  17. We exclude 137/108/76/51 outliers from our analysis sample which includes individuals born nine/seven/five/three years before and nine/seven/five/three years after the cutoff birth year, respectively.

  18. See, Sect. 7: Robustness Checks, for detailed explanation.

  19. There were two general elections held on June and November in 2015 in Turkey. Considering that political campaigns may affect the individual’s voluntary behavior, we add month fixed effects and survey year fixed effects. Alternatively, we could divide our sample as election/campaigning months versus other times. However, this would decrease our sample size substantially, making it harder to get a reliable inference.

  20. We divide 12 region in Turkey into 5 categories: West, East, Center, North, and South. And then, we generate a dummy variable, West/East/Center/North/South, which takes the value 1 if the region is in the West/ East/Center/North/South, and 0 otherwise. Investigating the impact of Turkish compulsory schooling reform on current region that individuals live in shows that there is no significant effects of the education reform on the likelyhood of living in the western/eastern/central/northern/ part of Turkey (See Table 9 in Appendix 1).

  21. As a robustness check, we also cluster the standard errors at the birth year level by current region (see column (1) and (2) of Table 12 in Appendix 1).

  22. We also display descriptive statistics for organization-based volunteering activities and direct volunteering activities (helping) in Table 8 in Appendix 1. We report that on average, individuals in the treatment and control groups engage in more direct volunteering activities (helping) than organization-based volunteering activities as the mean of time spent in direct volunteering activities, frequency of direct volunteering activities, number of direct volunteering activities, and direct volunteering activity participation are larger. There is no statistically significant difference between individuals in the treatment and control groups in terms of organization-based volunteering activities as well as direct volunteering activities.

  23. The number of observations for weekly hours worked and higher than minimum wage variables are smaller than the number of employed individuals as there is some missing information about individuals’ weekly hours worked and earnings level in our data.

  24. Age information was given in 5-year intervals in the original data set of Turkish Time Use Survey. We were able to get exact age information from TurkStat via special request.

  25. We should also mention that at bandwidth 3, the education reform rises the likelihood of completing at least high school for males. However, this result is not robust when we widen the estimation window.

  26. Our results are in line with recent studies showing that the strong correlations between education and different outcome variables may exist due to endogeneity problems and documenting no causal impact of education (Yang 2019; Avendano, de Coulon, & Nafilyan 2020).

  27. We also investigate the impact of education on voluntary work outcomes in subsample of non-employed individuals. Similar to employed individuals, we do not find any significant causal effects of increased education on voluntary work outcomes (See Table 15 in Appendix 1).

  28. This result is consistent with earlier studies that use the same education reform to examine the effect of education on labor market outcomes in Turkey (see Aydemir & Kirdar 2017; Torun 2018).

  29. To minimize the possibility of cohort effect on our robustness results, we show our findings at bandwidth 3 in Tables 12 and 13 in Appendix 1. Note that our results are also robust at the optimal bandwidth, 7.

  30. Detailed results are available upon request.

  31. We find that the completion of at least middle school significantly reduce time spent in voluntary activities by 779 min over four weeks in the male sample, while the average time spent in voluntary activities is nearly 100 min per four weeks. Detailed results are available in the previous version of this paper circulated under the title of “Education and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Time Use Survey”.

  32. We cannot assess the impact of education on monetary donations due to the lack of data.


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Correspondence to Cagla Okten.

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A previous version of this paper circulated under the title of “Education and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Time Use Survey”. We would like to thank conference participants at the 33rd Annual Conference of European Society for Population Economics (ESPE) and 31st European Association of Labor Economics (EALE) for valuable comments and suggestions. We are also thankful to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT) for granting permission to use Time Use Survey Micro Data Set, 2014-2015.


Appendix 1

Table 8

Table 8 Descriptive statistics

Table 9

Table 9 The effects of compulsory schooling reform on current region

Table 10

Table 10 The effects of compulsory schooling reform on educational attainment

Table 11

Table 11 The effects of at least middle school completion on labor market outcomes

Table 12

Table 12 The Effects of at least middle school completion on voluntary work: alternative specifications 1

Table 13

Table 13 The effects of at least middle school completion on voluntary work: including additional control variables

Table 14

Table 14 The effects of at least middle school completion on voluntary work (for non-employed individuals)

Table 15

Table 15 The effects of at least middle school completion on voluntary work: alternative outcome measures 1

Table 16

Table 16 The effects of at least middle school on voluntary work: alternative outcome measures 2

Appendix 2

Table 17

Table 17 Voluntary work

Table 18

Table 18 The definition of variables

Table 19

Table 19 Exposure to 1997 compulsory schooling law in the 2014–2015 survey years

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Akar, B., Akyol, P. & Okten, C. Education and Voluntary Work: Evidence from Turkish Time Use Survey. J Labor Res 43, 275–320 (2022).

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