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Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor

  • Richard B. Freeman

Volunteer activity is work performed without monetary recompense. This paper shows that volunteering is a sizeable economic activity in the U.S.; that volunteers have high skills and opportunity costs of time; that standard labor supply explanations of volunteering account for only a minor part of volunteer behavior; and that many volunteer only when requested to do so. This suggests that volunteering is a 'conscience good or activity' -- something that people feel morally obligated to do when asked, but which they would just as soon let someone else do.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5435.

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Date of creation: Jan 1996
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 15, no. 1, part 2 (January 1997): S140-S166.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5435
Note: LS
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  1. Menchik, Paul L. & Weisbrod, Burton A., 1987. "Volunteer labor supply," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 159-183, March.
  2. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352.
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