- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2003

The American spirit for volunteerism is on the upswing.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that Americans volunteered at a 1.2 percentage-point higher rate in fiscal year 2003 than a year earlier.

Last year, 27.6 percent of the population at least 16 years old did some volunteer work. In fiscal 2003, the percentage climbed to 28.8 percent, or 63.8 million people.

“It possibly may have something to do with the aging population,” said Steve Hipple, an economist for the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The highest incidence of volunteering is among people 35 to 44 years old. That population is getting larger.”

Among 35- to 44-year-olds, 34.7 percent did volunteer work. The 45- to 54-year-olds were a close second with a 32.7 percent volunteer rate.

Teens rated high with a 29.5 percent volunteer rate, “perhaps reflecting an emphasis on volunteer activities in schools,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics report said.

The rate dropped to 19.7 percent for those in their early 20s.

One explanation offered by the bureau is that people in the 35- to 44-year-old group are likely to have children old enough to participate in group activities.

“A lot of volunteering has to do with parents volunteering for organizations for which their children are involved in activities,” Mr. Hipple said.

Organizations for which volunteers contribute efforts are most commonly religious (34.6 percent), educational or youth services (27.4 percent), social or community service (11.8 percent), and hospitals or health organizations (8.2 percent).

The most common number of hours volunteered throughout the year was 52. The rate increased with level of education. It also was slightly higher for women.

“That could be due to men having a higher labor-force participation,” Mr. Hipple said. “Obviously, they would have less time to volunteer.”

The most common reasons respondents gave for not volunteering were lack of time (44.7 percent), health problems (14.7 percent) and family or child care responsibilities (9.5 percent).


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