CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

Youth Volunteering Rate Much Higher than in the 1970s and ’80s

May 3rd, 2011
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At CIRCLE, we often receive questions about the youth volunteering rate today compared to past generations. The following graph, based on Census data, shows that young people are considerably more likely to volunteer than they were in 1989 or 1974, two years when the Census Current Population Survey included a volunteering question that has also been asked annually since 2002. There have been ups and downs in recent years, but the growth compared to 1989 is striking.

volunteering rate for ages 16-19

Volunteering rate for ages 16-19 from US Census

Data points from 1974 and 1989 were calculated by Grimm, Dietz, Foster-Bey, Reingold, and Nesbit (PDF). Data points since 2002 were calculated by CIRCLE. See more detail on recent years here.

7 Responses to “Youth Volunteering Rate Much Higher than in the 1970s and ’80s”

  1. Paula Says:

    Can you share data about volunteer rates for 12-15 year olds, as well? We’ve seen a big rise, which is undoubtedly propelling the rise for 16-19 year olds.

  2. CIRCLE Says:

    Paula, A survey called Monitoring the Future would be the best source for 12-15 year olds. I have an MTF trend for 1976-2003, and it does show a large increase. I don’t have more up-to-date figures from MTF. – Peter

  3. Libby Says:

    Note to all high school parents…an initiative through, which connects high school students to volunteer opportunities via the web, tracks high school students service hours, and is partnered with the Jefferson Awards out of D.C….is racking up youth service hours & momentum, as is going national! Check out the website today, and see how we are helping contribute to an increase in youth volunteerism throughout the country, by allowing students to find their passion in giving back!

  4. Jobs Says:

    Nowadays todays youth feel a much larger sense of social responisbility and they also have more freedom to persue interests such as volunteering in the community.. Also the number of youth programs that youth can apply to has also grown.

  5. new federal measures of civic engagement « Peter Levine Says:

    […] we have turnout statistics going back to George Washington. The Census asked about volunteering in 1974 and 1988 and has fielded an annual measure of volunteering since 2002. With the passage of the Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009, the Census was required to ask about […]

  6. Dave Says:

    The data for 1974 is so flawed as to be meaningless, in large part because of the definitions and data-sources used.

    E.g., doing a phone-tree to demand better teachers for your kids is volunteering — even if there is no formal organization involved. Organizing, preparing for, and/or marching in an demonstration or rally is volunteering. Any activity that you are not paid for and that has a broader social intent (not just leisure) is volunteering.

    Volunteering was far more prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s than now — in large part because many women did not hold formal jobs. Besides holding down the household, they spent 40+ hours/week — volunteering, in one form or another.

    I’m disappointed that you would link to and feature such a flawed study.

  7. The kids really are alright | A Geek About Everything Says:

    […] and drug hungry? That too does not seem to have any merit when you dig deeper. Youth volunteering rates have doubled in the past several decades and despite what the media is telling you, groups like the […]