Volunteerism in the Time of Economic Restructuring: Does Underemployment Affect Volunteering?
Posted: 22 Feb 2011
Nonprofit organizations suffer fundraising slumps during economic recessions, but there is less known about the affects of recession on the volunteer workforce. Among the many legacies of the Great Recession is the likelihood of an intermediate to long-term economic restructuring that will not only displace persons from the labor market, but also relocate persons within the labor force. More specifically, even highly trained persons are likely to move from higher skill, knowledge and ability positions to lower level positions. Such widespread economic restructuring is likely to have an impact on the volunteer workforce that has yet to be studied. The extant literature focuses upon the impact of unemployment on volunteering or different volunteer behaviors among demographic segments of the employed workforce. Most of this research pits a rational choice perspective against a more social engagement framework to explain how employment status affects volunteering. Our research employs both frameworks to determine whether underemployed workers are more or less likely to volunteer labor for nonprofit or community activities. Using extensive survey data from a large region of Texas, we test several hypotheses based upon alternative indicators of underemployment and find support for both a rational choice and more social engagement approach to understanding how the volunteer labor force is likely to fluctuate under recessionary conditions.
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