Young people with 'cultural capital' more likely to volunteer, paper says

According to new analysis by Matthew Bennett of the Third Sector Research Centre, young people who, say, go to the theatre volunteer more than others

Matthew Bennett
Matthew Bennett

Young people who take part in cultural activities such as going to the theatre are more likely to volunteer than those who do not, says new research by the Third Sector Research Centre.

For the paper, What Factors Predict Volunteering Among Youths in the UK?, Matthew Bennett, a research fellow at the TSRC, and Meenakshi Parameshwaran, a research fellow at the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, University of Manchester, analysed data collected in 2010 and 2011 from a nationally representative sample of 4,760 people aged from 10 to 15.

The main findings from the paper have been released today. It says that 52 per cent of young people volunteered at least once a year and, of these, 19 per cent did so at least once a month.

The research found significant differences across socio-economic classes, with the lowest social class 38 per cent less likely to volunteer than the highest social class. But the class effects became insignificant when measuring the likelihood of a young person volunteering if they took part in cultural activities such as going to the theatre, museums or sports events.

On average, young people with a higher level of 'cultural capital' were 65 per cent more likely to volunteer.

Positive role models were also found to have an effect on the likelihood of a young person volunteering, with youths being 22 per cent more likely to volunteer frequently if they had at least one parent who volunteered.

And the paper says that those from ethnic minority backgrounds were 28 per cent more likely to volunteer than white British youths.

Young people were also found to be more likely to volunteer if they were female, if they lived in rural areas, if they had a higher number of close friends and if they attended religious classes.

Bennett said it was surprising that the factors predicting youth volunteering levels had not been measured until now.

"This research demonstrates the important role of social and cultural factors in youth participation, and suggests that civic engagement could itself be seen as a form of cultural capital, given the positive outcomes associated with these behaviours in prior US and European studies," he said. "Youth volunteering might reinforce existing social divides, so more could be done to engage those who lack the human, social and cultural resources – and especially young white males from lower social classes and urban areas."

The full journal article will be published at a later date.

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