Volunteering over the Life Course

Jonas Radl & Bram Lancee


This paper analyses with longitudinal data (German Socio-Economic Panel)  how civic participation and volunteering vary over the life course. We identify four main explanations for volunteering behavior and analyze how work and family related events affect volunteering, differentiating states and transitions. We find that many differences that we observe between people disappear once we take into account within-individual changes only. Both work and family events matter for the frequency of participation, but its influence is limited. We furthermore find that parental volunteering and volunteering during  childhood are strong predictors of volunteering, suggesting that volunteering behavior is determined early in life. We conclude that, although life course events matter for volunteering, volunteers start very young, setting the stage for their volunteering behavior in subsequent phases of the life course.