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August 2003, Vol. 126, No.8
Volunteerism in the United States
About 59 million people, or 27.6 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population, volunteered through or for an organization at some point from September 2001 to September 2002. Volunteers are a major source of labor in the United States, performing a variety of important tasks and contributing considerable time and effort to meeting the needs of their communities. The data in this article come from a special supplement to the September 2002 Current Population Survey (CPS).1 The supplement collected information on the incidence of volunteering, the number and type of organizations through or for which persons volunteered, total hours spent volunteering, how people became involved in volunteering, and the kinds of work they performed as volunteers.2
Incidence of volunteering
Some population groups are more likely than others to volunteer. Parents, for example, are likely to be involved with school or youth-related groups. Older people, many of whom are in the early years of retirement, are more likely to volunteer than young adults. High school students are increasingly participating in volunteer activities in order to fulfill community service requirements. College students receive information on volunteer opportunities from service groups on campus and from community groups that target the campus as a source of volunteers. In addition, many universities actively promote volunteering among students.3
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1 The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households that focuses on obtaining information on employment and unemployment among the Nationís civilian noninstitutional population aged 16 years and over. For a detailed discussion of the survey and its concepts, definitions, and methodology, see "Technical Notes to the Household Survey,"published in Employment and Earnings and on the Internet at http://stats.bls.gov/cps/cpseetn.pdf.
2 For more information on volunteer work in the United States, see Richard B.Freeman, "Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor," Working Paper 5435 (National Bureau of Economic Research, January 1996).
3 For example, the Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 900 college and university presidents, seeks to encourage community service among students in higher education. (See the organizationís mission statement on the Internet at http://www.compact.org/aboutcc/.)
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
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