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Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor

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  • Richard B. Freeman

Abstract

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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  • Richard B. Freeman, 1996. "Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor," NBER Working Papers 5435, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5435
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    1. Sander, William & Krautmann, Anthony C, 1995. "Catholic Schools, Dropout Rates and Educational Attainment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(2), pages 217-233, April.
    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 352-352.
    3. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
    4. 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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