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"The Big Society", Public Expenditure, and Volunteering


  • Koen P.R. Bartels

    (Glasgow University)

  • Guido Cozzi

    () (Durham Business School)

  • Noemi Mantovan

    (Bangor University)


The debate on volunteering has paid insufficient attention to the relationship between public spending and volunteering. Recently, the importance of this relationship was highlighted by the current British government's "Big Society" plan, which asserts that withdrawing public agencies and spending will be compensated by an increase in volunteering. This idea is based on the widely held belief that a high degree of government intervention decreases voluntary activities. This paper uses a multidisciplinary approach to develop a more refined understanding of how public spending affects the decision to volunteer. A theoretical model conceptualizes this relationship in terms of time donation by employed individuals. The model is empirically developed through an econometric analysis of two survey data sets and interpretative analysis of narratives of local volunteers and public professionals. The results suggest that volunteering is likely to decline when government intervention is decreased and recommend a collaborative approach to sustaining volunteering.

Suggested Citation

  • Koen P.R. Bartels & Guido Cozzi & Noemi Mantovan, 2012. ""The Big Society", Public Expenditure, and Volunteering," Working Papers 2012_06, Durham University Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:dur:durham:2012_06

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    Cited by:

    1. Guido Cozzi & Noemi Mantovan & Robert M. Sauer, 2017. "Does it Pay to Work for Free? Negative Selection and the Wage Returns to Volunteer Experience," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 79(6), pages 1018-1045, December.
    2. Cozzi, Guido & Mantovan, Noemi & Sauer, Robert M., 2013. "Does it Pay to Work for Free? Wage Returns and Gender Differences in the Market for Volunteers," Economics Working Paper Series 1330, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.

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    volunteering; labor supply; public goods; altruism.;

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