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Motivations to volunteer and social capital: the role of intrinsic motivations in promoting networks of cooperative relations


  • Giacomo Degli Antoni

    () (EconomEtica)


Although intrinsic motivations receive increasing attention in explaining human actions, our knowledge on their causes and effects is incomplete. Quite surprisingly, the existing literature fails to consider the relationship between intrinsic motivations and social capital formation. The present paper increases understanding on the effect of intrinsic motivations by studying the role that different motivations to volunteer have on the creation of volunteers’ social capital which is intended as networks of cooperative relations. Our empirical analysis considers three indices of social capital, aimed at measuring both the quantitative (number) and the qualitative (degree of familiarity and cooperation) character of social relations, and intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to volunteer (ideal motivations, the desire to feel useful to others, the pursuit of social recognition and the desire to increase the number of acquaintances or friends). We find that the creation of social capital through participation in voluntary associations is not indifferent to the motivations which induced the volunteer to start his/her unpaid activity. In particular, we show that intrinsic motivations enable people to extend their social networks by creating relations characterized by a significant degree of familiarity. By contrast, extrinsic motivations, and in particular the decision to join an association in order to increase the number of acquaintances or friends, promote the creation of networks from a quantitative point of view, but they do not facilitate the creation of relations based on a particular degree of confidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Giacomo Degli Antoni, 2009. "Motivations to volunteer and social capital: the role of intrinsic motivations in promoting networks of cooperative relations," Econometica Working Papers wp06, Econometica.
  • Handle: RePEc:ent:wpaper:wp06

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lionel Prouteau & François-Charles Wolff, 2004. "Relational Goods and Associational Participation," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 75(3), pages 431-463, September.
    2. Duncan, Brian, 1999. "Modeling charitable contributions of time and money," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 213-242, May.
    3. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
    4. Duncan Boldy, 1999. "Contribution," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Monitoring, Evaluating, Planning Health Services, chapter 25, pages 261-262 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    5. Degli Antoni, Giacomo, 2009. "Does satisfaction matter? A microeconomic empirical analysis of the effect of social relations on economic welfare," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 301-309, March.
    6. Menchik, Paul L. & Weisbrod, Burton A., 1987. "Volunteer labor supply," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 159-183, March.
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    More about this item


    Intrinsic Motivations; Social Capital; Volunteer Work; Social Networks;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship

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