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Is Volunteering Rewarding in Itself? Evidence from a Natural Experiment

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Listed:
  • Stephan Meier
  • Alois Stutzer

Abstract

Volunteering constitutes one of the most important pro-social activities. Following Adam Smith, helping others is the way to higher individual well-being. This view contrasts with the selfish utility maximizer who avoids costs from helping others. The two rival views are studied empirically. We find robust evidence that volunteers are more satisfied with their life than non-volunteers. Causality is addressed taking advantage of a natural experiment: the collapse of East Germany and its infrastructure of volunteering. People who accidentally lost their opportunities for volunteering are compared to people who experienced no change in their volunteer status.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephan Meier & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Is Volunteering Rewarding in Itself? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," CREMA Working Paper Series 2004-12, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  • Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2004-12
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2001. "The Changing Distribution of Job Satisfaction," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(1), pages 1-30.
    4. Tatzel, Miriam, 2002. ""Money worlds" and well-being: An integration of money dispositions, materialism and price-related behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 103-126, February.
    5. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
    6. Benjamin E. Hermalin and Alice M. Isen., 1999. "The Effect of Affect on Economic and Strategic Decision Making," Economics Working Papers E99-270, University of California at Berkeley.
    7. Besley, Timothy & Case, Anne, 2000. "Unnatural Experiments? Estimating the Incidence of Endogenous Policies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(467), pages 672-694, November.
    8. Charness, Gary & Grosskopf, Brit, 2001. "Relative payoffs and happiness: an experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 301-328, July.
    9. Harvey S. James Jr., 2003. "Are Happy People Ethical People? Evidence from North America and Europe," Microeconomics 0303004, EconWPA.
    10. Freeman, Richard B, 1997. "Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 140-166, January.
    11. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-477, June.
    12. Meyer, Bruce D, 1995. "Natural and Quasi-experiments in Economics," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 151-161, April.
    13. Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey, 2004. "Reported Subjective Well-Being: A Challenge for Economic Theory and Economic Policy," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 124(2), pages 191-231.
    14. Menchik, Paul L. & Weisbrod, Burton A., 1987. "Volunteer labor supply," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 159-183, March.
    15. Phelps, Charlotte D., 2001. "A clue to the paradox of happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 293-300, July.
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    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Consumption deskilling & utility
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2009-03-01 20:36:46

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels, 2016. "Towards a Theory of Life Satisfaction: Accounting for Stability, Change and Volatility in 25-Year Life Trajectories in Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 864, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Stephan Meier, 2005. "Do subsidies increase charitable giving in the long run? Matching donations in a field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00308, The Field Experiments Website.
    3. Dayé, Modeste, 2014. "Volunteering at the extensive margins in Developing Countries: Extrinsic or Intrinsic Motives?," MPRA Paper 59202, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 10 Oct 2014.
    4. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2005. "Happiness Research: State and Prospects," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(2), pages 207-228.
    5. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2014. "Economic Consequences of Mispredicting Utility," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 937-956, August.
    6. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels, 2014. "Trajectories of Life Satisfaction: Positive Feedback Loops May Explain Why Life Satisfaction Changes in Multi-year Waves Rather than Oscillating around a Set-Point," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 674, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    7. Headey, Bruce & Muffels, Ruud, 2014. "Two-way Causation in Life Satisfaction Research: Structural Equation Models with Granger-Causation," IZA Discussion Papers 8665, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. repec:rom:mancon:v:11:y:2017:i:1:p:349-358 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:spr:soinre:v:134:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1430-2 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    happiness; pro-social behavior; subjective well-being; volunteering;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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