What factors predict volunteering
among youths in the UK?

Briefing Paper 102

August 2013

This research explores what factors make young people more likely to volunteer. It uses wave 2 of Understanding Society to provide the first large-scale analysis of youth volunteering in the UK. It analyses data on 4,760 young people aged between 10 and 15.

The research finds that young people with high levels of cultural capital are more likely to volunteer. Going to the theatre, concerts, sports events, museums or art galleries had the greatest influence on youth volunteering and civic engagement. The research also found significant differences across socio-economic classes, with higher classes more likely to volunteer. However, these become insignificant once social and cultural capital were taken into account.

Young people were more likely to volunteer if their parents did, emphasising the role played by significant adults in moulding the behaviour of young people.
Young people were also more likely to volunteer if they were from ethnic minority backgrounds, female or lived in rural areas. While those who attended religious classes were more likely to volunteer, there were no differences across religious groups, and attending religious services had no effect.

The results demonstrate that more needs to be done to engage lower social class urban white males in their early teenage years. Mentoring programs could be introduced for those lacking civically engaged role models. Civic engagement among young people has been linked to a number of positive outcomes later in life, including greater wellbeing, academic and career achievement, and fewer problem behaviours such as substance misuse. As such, it is important that those who lack social, cultural and human resources are encouraged to participate in civic activities.

Research contacts
Matthew Bennett and Meenakshi Parameshwaran