NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor

Richard B. Freeman

NBER Working Paper No. 5435
Issued in January 1996
NBER Program(s):   LS

Volunteer activity is work performed without monetary recompense. This paper shows that volunteering is a sizeable economic activity in the U.S.; that volunteers have high skills and opportunity costs of time; that standard labor supply explanations of volunteering account for only a minor part of volunteer behavior; and that many volunteer only when requested to do so. This suggests that volunteering is a 'conscience good or activity' -- something that people feel morally obligated to do when asked, but which they would just as soon let someone else do.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5435

Published: Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 15, no. 1, part 2 (January 1997): S140-S166. citation courtesy of

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