Volunteerism Increases at Highest Rate in 6 Years.
The number of Americans who volunteer grew last year at the fastest rate in six years, according to a new report, defying the popular notion that hard economic times suppress civic participation.
The report, released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service, says that 63.4 million adult Americans??nearly 27 percent of the population?volunteered to help charitable causes last year. That?s an increase from 2008 of roughly 1.6 million volunteers, the largest single-year jump since 2003.
In total, 2009?s volunteers donated about 8.1 billion hours of service, valued at nearly $169-billion, says the report, which is based on annual and monthly surveys of roughly 100,000 Americans age 16 or older, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Last year?s figures defied expectations, according to the report, which pointed to the common assumption that when the economy goes sour, people turn inward to focus on their own circumstances. ?The data, however, tell a different story,? the report says.
An increase in volunteer rates among women ages 45 to 54 and among married women helped fuel the rise in volunteer numbers. Among black women, volunteer rates rose nearly two percentage points, to 22.8 percent.
The organizations at which Americans chose to volunteer stayed fairly consistent between 2008 and 2009. As before, the largest percentage of Americans?more than one-third?volunteered at churches or with other religious groups. But the economic downturn may have stirred more people to donate their time to social-service organizations, which counted 8.8 million volunteers last year, up from 8.4 million in 2008.