U.S. volunteerism declining

The share of Americans volunteering their time dropped last year to 26.7 percent, representing the lowest volunteer rate since the U.S. Department of Labor began tracking the number in 2002, a new study says.

The absolute number of people giving their time also fell, to 61.2 million in 2006 from a high of 65.4 million in 2005, while the volunteer rate sank from a peak of 28.8 percent recorded in each of the last three years.

The study was conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and was sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Rates of volunteering fell in all age groups, the study says, but the biggest drop was among teens.

More than there in 10 people ages 35 to 54 volunteered, the highest rate for any age group, while people in their early 20s were least likely to volunteer.

Women volunteered at a higher rate than men, and whites were more likely to give their time than African Americans, Asians or Hispanics, the study says.

Married people also were more likely to give their time, as were highly educated Americans.

Those volunteering gave a median of 52 hours in 2006, with more than one in three volunteers involved in religious activities, while slightly more than one in four worked with educational or youth-related groups and more than one in 10 volunteered for social or community service organizations.

The two most popular volunteer activities were fundraising and tutoring or teaching, the study says, with parents more likely than non-parents to spend time in child-related volunteer activities.

More than four in 10 people became volunteers after being asked by an organization, while a slightly smaller number sought out volunteer activities themselves.

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