Community Matters: How the Volunteering of Others Affects One's Likelihood of Engaging in Volunteer Work
We investigate the effect of the volunteering of others on the likelihood that an individual will also engage in volunteering activities. The theoretical part of our analysis is based on a sequential signaling framework, in which the decisions of others to volunteer are informative as to the benefit from volunteering. In this framework, the interaction between one's private information and the public belief when she is called upon to act makes it more likely that she will volunteer, given a higher average level of contributions by her predecessors. To test this empirically, we measure the effect of average volunteering in the community on the likelihood that an individual will volunteer, controlling for individual and community characteristics. We use Census 2000 Summary File 3 and Current Population Survey (CPS) 2004-2007 September supplement files. Our results are robust to various choices of sample, by years analyzed, working status, and whether or not the volunteering included religious activities. We account for reflection bias by means of an instrumental variables strategy which further verifies the pattern of our results.
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