Volunteer Participation at Young, Middle, Older Adulthood

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J Pop Research (2012) 29:373–398 DOI 10.1007/s12546-012-9092-7

Participation in different types of volunteering at young, middle and older adulthood Edith Gray • Siew-Ean Khoo • Anna Reimondos

Published online: 4 August 2012 Ó Springer Science & Business Media B.V. 2012

Abstract Around 35 % of Australian adults volunteer. It has been found that participation in volunteering varies with life course stage: people tend to participate less in early adulthood, which has been referred to as a ‘demographically dense’ period, and more in middle adulthood, which has been characterized as a more stable period of life. This paper extends this research to investigate the types of organizations for which people volunteer at different life course stages. This paper uses data from the Negotiating the Life Course project (2003 and 2006) to examine participation in volunteering for different types of organizations. The focus is on the type of organizations for which people volunteer and how that differs in young, middle and older adulthood. There are three dominant types of organizations that people volunteer for: welfare and community, sport and recreation, and education and training, and volunteering with each of these groups varies with a person’s life course stage. Younger adults tend to be more likely to volunteer for religious groups. People in middle adulthood, and particularly those with school-aged children, tend to volunteer in sport and recreation groups and education and training organizations, and volunteering with welfare, community and health organizations is dominant in older adulthood. Keywords Volunteering Á Civic participation Á Life course Á Welfare and community Á Sport and recreation Á Education and training

E. Gray (&) Á S.-E. Khoo Á A. Reimondos The Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute (ADSRI), The Australian National University, Building No. 9, Acton, ACT 0200, Australia e-mail: edith.gray@anu.edu.au

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Introduction Volunteers make an important contribution to Australian society. There has been a long history of this type of civic participation in Australia, and in recent years there has been an increase in the percentage of people involved in volunteering (ABS 2008; FaHCSIA 2008). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2006 the percentage of the Australian adult population that volunteered was 36 % (ABS 2011a). Volunteer work has economic and social benefits for society, and there is considerable evidence that the contributions volunteers make are beneficial to the volunteers as well as those they help (Li and Ferraro 2006; Musick et al. 1999; Thoits and Hewitt 2001). In understanding volunteering, two of the most important questions are ‘who does it?’ and ‘where do they do it?’ (Bussell and Forbes 2002). We already know at a general level quite a lot from previous studies about people who volunteer. For example we know that in Australia, volunteers are more likely to be female, to have higher levels of education and income, to be more religious and to have been born in Australia. Life cycle stage is also important: volunteering is particularly prevalent among individuals aged in their 30s and 40s with dependent children (ABS 2007). While we know about these general characteristics of volunteers, we know less about whether people volunteer for different types of organizations at different life course stages, and what types of people are more likely to volunteer for particular types of organizations. In this paper, we examine volunteering for different types of groups and organizations at three life course stages: young, middle and older adulthood; and we investigate the socio-demographic characteristics of people to determine who participates in volunteering for different organization types. The paper focuses on involvement in ‘formal’ volunteering, which is defined as an act of providing time to not-for-profit, charitable and community groups...
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