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Counting hours, not people: Causes and consequences of time use for volunteering

The research project investigates causes and consequences of time use for volunteering.

Volunteering is defined as unpaid work most often carried out in voluntary organizations such as organizing church choirs, coaching in sports clubs, providing homeless shelters, campaigning etc. The aim of the research project is twofold: first, it will investigate what causes people to choose to volunteer, and given they do so, what causes them to spend more or less time on volunteering. Moreover, it will investigate how the causes of time use for volunteering have changed over time. Second, it will investigate the consequences of volunteering - whether and to what extent there are returns to time investments in volunteering.

Methodologically, the research project deals with the question of how we can analytically separate the decision to volunteer from the amount of hours volunteered. The project relies on advanced quantitative methods including corner solution models and panel data models. Previous research on volunteering is awash in interesting correlations, but this project will focus on particular effects of causes; for example the causal effect of formal work hours on volunteer hours. Towards this end it will use panel survey data supplied with national register data from Denmark.

The research project will contribute to the international sociological research on volunteering by providing a more elaborate understanding of time use for volunteering. Until now the international sociological research on volunteering has primarily focused on the number of people involved in volunteering and their characteristics, but paid only marginal attention to the complementary question of the amount of hours invested and what mechanisms explain time use. Thus, Internationally, this research project is among the first to shift the attention to counting hours, not people.

The research project is funded by an ordinary research stipend from Aalborg University. The research project was launched June 2015, and is scheduled to finish May 2018.

The research project will be conducted at the Dept. of Sociology and Social Work by PhD student Hans-Peter Qvist with Professor Lars Skov Henriksen as main supervisor.