February 2009

IZA DP No. 4016: Volunteering and the State

revised version published in: Public Choice,2012, 151 (3-4), 465 - 495

This paper explores the capability of the state to affect the individual's decision to work for free. For this purpose we combine individual-level data from the European and World Values Survey with macroeconomic and political variables for OECD member countries. Empirically we identify three channels for crowding out of voluntary labor. Firstly, an increase in public social expenditure decreases the probability that the individual will volunteer (fiscal crowding out). Secondly, a political consensus between individuals and the government also induces volunteers to reduce their unsalaried activities (consensual crowding out). And finally, the more a government supports democratization, the lower is the individual's engagement (participatory crowding out). Religiosity and a more unequal income distribution in a country increase individuals’ willingness to volunteer.