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Research Friday: What Affects Hispanic Volunteering - Comparing Three Surveys in the United States

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. This week we welcome Dr. Lili Wang as she provides insight into the Hispanic volunteering community.

With the increasing diversity of the American society and the current low level of formal volunteering among minority population, scholars and practitioners of the nonprofit sector are becoming increasingly concerned with the factors that promote volunteering, especially for minorities. Understanding the determinants of Hispanic volunteering and the types of volunteer work that interest Hispanics can help nonprofit organizations target their recruiting efforts and tailor their programs to the Hispanic population.

In 2010, the United States Census recorded over 50 million Hispanics in America, making the Hispanic population is the largest minority group in the States. That number is projected to grow over 100 million by 2050. That means Hispanics' share of the nation's total population would nearly double, from 12.6% in 2000 to about 25% in 2050 (United States Census Bureau, 2004).

About 40% of Hispanics in the U.S. are foreign-born immigrants, and 70% are concentrated in seven states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, and New Jersey. Given the size and rapid growth of the Hispanic population, both native-born and immigrant, their participation in volunteering activities is important to the development of nonprofit organizations and the civil society in large.

The literature on minority philanthropy shows that minority groups in the U.S., including African Americans and Hispanics, typically participate or volunteer less in a broad range of formal social and political activities than non-Hispanic whites (Hodgkinson & Weitzman, 1996). The dominant status theory attributes low minority volunteering to their less prevalent social positions and roles within the socio-cultural system (Mesch, Rooney, Steinberg, & Denton, 2006).

Several studies find that after controlling for socioeconomic status or human resources, such as education, income, and occupational status, there is no significant difference in the probability of formal volunteering between African Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites when they were asked to volunteer (Bryant, Jeon-Slaughter, Kang, & Tax, 2003).

Studies also show that the effect of race and ethnicity on volunteering is further mediated by individuals' social and cultural resources (Musick, Wilson, & Bynum, 2000; Wilson, 2000; Wilson & Musick, 1997), which include marital status, social networks based on employment and having children in the family, connections with friends and organizations, religious beliefs, religious attendance, and acculturation of immigrants. Wilson (2000) also argues that contextual or community effects, such as urban and rural differences, cities, regions, and neighborhood characteristics influence volunteering behavior as well.

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Few existing empirical studies, however, have examined what affects Hispanics' decision to volunteer and what type of organizations they volunteer for. In addition, studies that do examine Hispanic volunteering often yield inconsistent results as survey methodology, including survey instruments, sampling method, data collection procedures, inducement to participate in the survey, unit of analysis, memory prompts, proxy responses, and so on. For example, a study shows that more detailed prompts led respondents to recall volunteering at higher incidence rates and more hours (Rooney, Steinberg, & Schervish, 2002).

Using data from three surveys conducted in the U.S. — the September Volunteering Supplement of the Current Population Survey; the Philanthropic Module of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics; and the Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan Giving and Volunteering Survey — we can examine the social, cultural, and community context factors that affect Hispanics' decision to volunteer.

The results show that educational attainment, citizenship/immigrant status, and religious attendance are the most consistent and significant predictors of Hispanic formal volunteering, which is volunteering for or through a formal organization. For example, an additional year of education increases Hispanics' chances of volunteering by at least 13%, and Hispanic citizens are at least 1.5 times more likely to volunteer than Hispanic immigrants.

Hispanic immigrants from countries where helping family members is highly regarded but offer little opportunities for people to do unpaid work for an organization may find it natural to engage in informal volunteering rather than formal volunteering after they move to the States. In addition, the studies show that religious organizations and organizations serving children and youth are the favorite organizations for Hispanic volunteers.

The results suggest that nonprofit organizations can collaborate with higher education institutions and religious organizations for the recruitment of Hispanic volunteers. Additionally, faith-based nonprofit organizations and youth-oriented secular nonprofits interested in increasing minority involvement may find recruiting Hispanic volunteers to be fruitful.

^ [1] The U.S. Bureau of Census defines Hispanics or Latinos as those who classified themselves in one of the specific Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino categories listed on the 2000 Census questionnaire — "Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano," "Puerto Rican," or "Cuban" — as well as those who indicate that they are "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino," which includes those whose origins are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, the Dominican Republic, or people who generally identify themselves as Spanish, Spanish-American, Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, and so on. Here, the term Hispanic is used to describe both Hispanic and Latino population.

Bryant, W. K., Jeon-Slaughter, H., Kang, H., & Tax, A. (2003). Participation in philanthropic activities: Donating money and time. Journal of Consumer Policy, 26, 42-73.

Hodgkinson, V.A., and Weitzman, M.A. (1996). Giving and volunteering in the United States: Findings from a national survey. Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector.

Mesch, D. J., Rooney, P. M., Steinberg, K. S., and Denton, B. (2006). The Effects of Race, Gender, and Marital Status on Giving and Volunteering in Indiana. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 35(4): 565-287.

Musick, M. A., Wilson, J., & Bynum, W. E. (2000). Race and formal volunteering: The differential effects of call and religion. Social Forces, 78, 1539-1571.

Rooney, P., Steinberg, K., & Schervish, P. (2002). Methodology is destiny: The effect of survey prompts on reported levels of giving and volunteering. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 33(4): 628-654.

United States Census Bureau. 2004. Census Bureau Projects Tripling of Hispanic and Asian Populations in 50 years; Non-Hispanic Whites May Drop to Half of Total Population. Accessed on March 12th, 2010.

Wilson, J. (2000). Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 215-240.

Wilson, J. and Musick, M. (1997). Who cares? Toward an integrated theory of volunteer work. American Sociological Review, 62 (5): 694-713.


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