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The Effects of Volunteering for Non-profit Organizations on Social Capital Formation: Evidence from a Statewide Survey


  • Jane Kolodinsky


  • Garret Kimberly


  • Jonathan Isham



We use the household production framework to theoretically connect sociability and purposive incentives for volunteering and two forms of social capital: social connections and civic capacity. Then, using a unique statewide data set, we estimate the determinants of (a) the probability of receiving social capital benefits and (b) the level of such benefits. We show that: religious and social service organizations have a large impact on social capital formation; the probability of being socially and civically engaged increases with volunteering; and two-adult families are more likely to feel socially and civically engaged. These results are consistent with recent aggregate evidence on the decline of social capital in the United States: social capital formation declines with less religious and altruistic orientation at the community level, and as families move away from a two-adult family structure. By contrast, through volunteering, one can increase the likelihood of being socially and civically engaged.

Suggested Citation

  • Jane Kolodinsky & Garret Kimberly & Jonathan Isham, 2003. "The Effects of Volunteering for Non-profit Organizations on Social Capital Formation: Evidence from a Statewide Survey," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0305, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0305

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ghez75-1, January.
    3. Cragg, John G, 1971. "Some Statistical Models for Limited Dependent Variables with Application to the Demand for Durable Goods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 39(5), pages 829-844, September.
    4. Kathleen Day & Rose Annue Devlin, 1998. "The Payoff to Work without Pay: Volunteer Work as an Investment in Human Capital," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 31(5), pages 1179-1191, November.
    5. Knack, Stephen, 2000. "Social capital and the quality of Government : evidence from the U.S. States," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2504, The World Bank.
    6. Lin, Tsai-Fen & Schmidt, Peter, 1984. "A Test of the Tobit Specification against an Alternative Suggested by Cragg," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 174-177, February.
    7. O. Hawrylyshyn, 1978. "The economic nature and value of volunteer activity in Canada," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 1-71, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bartolini, Stefano & Bonatti, Luigi, 2007. "Endogenous growth, decline in social capital and expansion of market activities," MPRA Paper 3341, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Stefano Bartolini & Luigi Bonatti, 2006. "How Can the Decline in Social Capital be Reconciled with a Satisfactory Growth Performance?," Department of Economics University of Siena 477, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    3. Bartolini, Stefano & Bonatti, Luigi, 2008. "Endogenous growth, decline in social capital and expansion of market activities," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 917-926, September.
    4. Bartolini, Stefano & Bonatti, Luigi, 2008. "The role of social capital in enhancing factor productivity: Does its erosion depress per capita GDP?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 1539-1553, August.

    More about this item


    household production; civic engagement; social capital;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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