The idea of a 'civic core': what are the overlaps between charitable giving, volunteering, and civic participation in England and Wales?

Working paper 73

Policy statements from the Coalition government, such as the Giving White Paper (Cabinet Office, 2011) indicate a desire to increase the proportions of the population who are engaged in volunteering and charitable giving. These calls to action largely rest on headline figures, such as the aggregate volunteering rate at a particular point in time. Our research shows that we need to look behind headline figures if we are to understand patterns of civic engagement in the UK.

This research explores the relative shares of the total amounts of charitable giving, volunteering, and participation in civic associations accounted for by different sections of the population in England and Wales. Building on a Canadian study (Reed and Selbee, 2001), it highlights how a small group of people contribute a large proportion of formal civic engagement. This group can be thought of as the 'civic core'.

Our findings show that a third of the population provide 90% of volunteering hours, four-fifths of the amount given to charity, and nearly 80% of participation in civic associations. The social characteristics of members of these ‘core’ groups are analysed, showing that members of the ‘civic core’ are drawn predominantly from the most prosperous, middle-aged and highly educated sections of the population, and that they are most likely to live in the least deprived parts of the country.

However, our research also shows that non-engagement is actually quite limited: few people contribute nothing on all three dimensions of engagement.

More Information

Research contacts:

John Mohan and Sarah Bulloch