Higher Population, Less Volunteering
According to Volunteering in America metropolitan areas have the lowest percentage of volunteers, compared to all other places through the United States. It gets so low, that in places like New York City the rate of volunteering in 20%, and the rate of poverty is about the same percentage. That is to say, 1 in 5 people volunteer, and even more strikingly, 1 in 5 people are living in poverty. Metropolitan areas throughout the United States are some of the most impoverished areas in our society. You may think that due to this, there would be an increase of volunteers to combat the issues. If you look at it by percentage though, metropolitan areas have the exact same percentage of those that are in poverty, as non-metro areas. According to Kaiser, it currently stands at about 21% for both. The difference however is the shear size of the population. About 53 million people are living in poverty in metro areas, and only about 10.5 million are living in poverty outside the larger cities. From these numbers one may believe that volunteering within these areas would be higher than the general public, due to the more need for volunteers and programs that help those that are in poverty. However, the reverse is true, and the programs within these under privileged areas are lacking the volunteering and support that they need.
Why is it that higher population reduces the amount of volunteering? Let us take a look at the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota. These twin cities have the highest rate of volunteering amongst metropolitan locations in the United States. To understand why that is, we must look at the causes for higher amounts of volunteering. One of the main aspects of a person that increases their rate of volunteering is their level of education. Older adults with the a higher level of education are more likely to volunteer. Baby boomers and generation X individuals, on average, volunteer 2-3% higher than the rest of the population. In the Twin Cities they have higher education levels than the average, and have about 11% more volunteers than the rest of the nation, with a rate of 37.1%, and it just so happens that they have a higher percentage of baby boomer and generation X individuals, that volunteer above the average rate for those age categories. Unfortunately for America, in a recent national assessment, only one quarter of the students tested reached a “proficient” level or above, with results from metro areas even less. The twin cities, having education levels above the national average, have seen a noticeable effect in an increase in volunteer rates.
Another aspect that creates more volunteers is the level of income received by individuals and households. Those that make $100,000 or more volunteer almost twice as much as those that make only $20,000 or less. Also, as to be expected they donate a significant amount more to specific causes of their choice. In Minnesota, the income level is also higher than the average, and subsequently there is a higher amount of volunteering. To go along with income, the length of a commute is also a strong factor in deciding how many volunteers there will be. As it turns out the Twin Cities have some of the shortest commuting times. When you look at metro areas as a whole however, you will see that only 42 million people who lived in a metro area, worked in the same area. Comparing this to 91 million that had to commute to, from, or away from their respective metro area. In general commutes are about 26 minutes for the national average, and those that are commuting to or from a metro area, often have even longer travel times, reducing not only the time they have available to volunteer, but also the likely hood that they will be compelled to do so.
Other aspects, apparent to the Twin City area in terms of volunteering, is the ability of the organizations that receive volunteers, to recruit, train, and retain individuals, of which the Twin Cities has some of the highest rates in the nation. Sadly, this is not the case for many metro areas that have a high population. On average these areas actually have some of the worst retention rates, and amount of hours donated per person, suggesting a problem that needs to be addressed. In addition, metropolitan areas are becoming less and less connected religiously and spiritually. This is a big factor in volunteering, as you see the places with the highest volunteer rates, are also the places with the most civic engagement through religious entities. Case in point in Utah, with the highest volunteer rate in the country, at almost double the national average.
Higher population having less volunteering, is a problem in our nation, as we see the most need in the inner cities of America. Awareness for volunteering in these areas are low, and something that we at FuzeUs plan to address full force by letting people know the exact needs, locations, and skill sets that the organizations in metro areas need. As a nation, it is up to us to address these issues, by tackling education reform, gaps in income, and reducing our congested streets. However, we must realize that if we have a central place to communicate these needs, where many others can join your cause, we can accomplish more. Please join us and our discussion as we prepare to address and aid in these issues, at facebook.com/fuzeus, and keep checking back at FuzeUs.com for our launch at the end of August.