Volunteering

Publication Date:

Nov 03, 2018

Key facts about volunteering

  • More than one third of twelfth graders (36 percent) reported that they volunteered at least once a month in 2016; around 33 percent of tenth graders and 27 percent of eighth graders reported the same.
  • While rates of volunteering increased from 1991 to 2016 for both tenth graders (from 27 to 33 percent) and twelfth graders (from 24 to 36 percent), the rate for eighth graders remained relatively constant.
  • Female students are more likely to volunteer than males, especially in the higher grades; in 2016, 42 percent of female twelfth graders said they volunteered at least once per month, compared with 32 percent of male twelfth graders.
  • In 2016, students planning to complete four years of college were more likely to volunteer than their peers without such plans, at 41 and 24 percent, respectively, among twelfth graders.

Trends in volunteering

Among twelfth grade students, the proportion who say they “participate in community affairs or volunteer work” at least once per month rose from 24 percent in 1991 to 35 percent in 2001. After a slight dip in 2003, the participation rate continued to increase, and growth remained steady until 2010. From 2010 to 2016, it increased slightly, from 33 to 36 percent. Among tenth grade students, rates followed a similar pattern overall, increasing from 31 to 33 percent from 2010 to 2016. Among eighth grade students, volunteering has fluctuated slightly over the past 15 years, reaching a high of 29 percent in 2012. Since 2012, the rate of at least monthly volunteering among eighth graders decreased slightly to 27 percent in 2016 (Appendix 1).

Differences by grade

Older students are more likely than younger students to volunteer at least once per month. In 2016, 36 percent of twelfth-grade students reported they volunteered at least once per month, compared with 33 percent of tenth-grade students, and 27 percent of eighth-grade students (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

Female students are more likely to volunteer than males, especially in higher grades. In 2016, for example, 42 percent of twelfth-grade females said they volunteered at least once per month, compared with 32 percent of twelfth-grade males. This gender gap is similar at tenth grade (7 percentage points), and smaller at eighth grade (5 percentage points) (Appendix 1).

Differences by parental education

Students with a parent who has finished college or attended graduate school are more likely to report they volunteer at least once a month than are students with a parent with lower education levels. This pattern is consistent over time and across grades. In 2016, for example, 19 percent of eighth grade students with two parents who had less than a high school education volunteered at least once a month, compared with 39 percent of eighth grade students with at least one parent who has a graduate degree (Appendix 1).

Differences by race/Hispanic origin1

In 2016, Hispanic students in the eighth and tenth grades were less likely than their non-Hispanic black or non-Hispanic white peers to report volunteering at least once a month. In eighth grade, 19 percent of Hispanic students volunteered, compared with 31 and 30 percent of non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black students, respectively. Additionally, among tenth graders, non-Hispanic white students were more likely to volunteer in 2016 than were non-Hispanic black or Hispanic students, at 36, 30, and 24 percent, respectively. Among twelfth graders in 2016, 41 percent of non-Hispanic black students reported monthly volunteering, compared with 38 percent of non-Hispanic white students and 33 percent of Hispanic students (Appendix 1).

Differences by college plans 

Youth who report they “definitely will” or “probably will” graduate from a four-year college are much more likely to report they volunteer at least once a month than are other youth. Among twelfth graders in 2016, 41 percent of those who planned to complete four years of college volunteered, compared with 24 percent of those who reported they “probably wouldn’t” or “definitely wouldn’t” graduate from a four-year college. This pattern is consistent over time and across grades (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

State estimates for 2016 are available for children ages 12 to 17 from the National Survey of Children’s Health at http://www.childhealthdata.org/browse/survey/results?q=4750&r=1.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has calculated rates of volunteering for teenagers and young adults, by state, using the Current Population Survey Volunteer Supplements from 2002 to 2009. These data are available at http://www.civicyouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/FS_10_gen_vol_final.pdf.

Data and appendices

Data source

Child Trends’ original analysis of data from Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth, 1991 to 2016.

Raw data source

Monitoring the Future: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/.

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of Eighth, Tenth, and Twelfth Graders Who Volunteer at Least Once a Month: 1991-2016

Background

Definition

Volunteering includes all students who answered that they “participate in community affairs or volunteer work” once or more per month.

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Volunteering. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/volunteering. 

Endnotes

1. Estimates for white and black youth exclude Hispanic youth and youth of two or more races. Hispanic youth include persons identifying as Mexican American or Chicano, Cuban American, Puerto Rican, or other Hispanic or Latino and no other racial/ethnic group.