4441.0.55.002 - A Comparison of Volunteering Rates from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and the 2006 General Social Survey, Jun 2012  
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There are numerous theories to explain who engages in voluntary work. The Dominant Status model originally developed by Lemon et al. (1972) is frequently cited. According to this model, participation in voluntary activity is associated with a ‘dominant status’ position in society. That is, people who are highly educated and who have a high status job are likely to have a higher propensity of volunteering than people who do not (Lemon et al., 1972). Bales (1996) also comments that volunteering is associated with higher levels of education, income, and belonging to the dominant ethnic group. In Australia, level of educational attainment has also been found to be positively associated with the propensity to volunteer (Evans and Kelly, 2000). This association has been found in a number of studies (for example, Goss, 1999; Zwart and Perez, 1999; Davis Smith, 1998). However, while education level is associated with the propensity to volunteer, it may not be a determinant among people who commit a large amount of time to volunteering. Lyons and Hocking (2000) reported that among highly committed volunteers (those volunteering more than 300 hours a year) there was no difference in education level.

Other research has shown that people volunteer for activities that benefit their children, in areas such as sports teams or scouting (Smith, 1994). Furthermore, some researchers argue that motivational aspects (Clary and Snyder, 1991) and church attendance (Evans and Kelley 2000) have strong associations with volunteering, however this theory could not be tested in this analysis because similar information about religion and church participation were not available from both the GSS and the Census.

Analysis already published by the ABS is consistent with the themes of this research. People who volunteer generally have higher levels of education and higher incomes than those who do not volunteer. There are high rates of volunteering among people who are employed and parents with school-aged children. People in rural areas volunteer at slightly higher rates than people in major urban areas. The organisations that attract the highest number of volunteers include sports clubs, educational institutions and community/welfare organisations. While the rate of volunteering had risen over the ten or so years to 2006, the average number of hours people volunteered had fallen in 2006 (ABS 2006a; 2008).