American Sociological Association

The Connection between Neighboring and Volunteering

Sociological theory predicts that volunteers are likely to be more socially integrated into their communities than nonvolunteers. In this study, we test this theory by examining three dimensions of relations to neighbors—contact, social engagement, and the perception that neighbors trust each other. We hypothesize reciprocal relations between volunteering and these three measures. Using cross‐lagged structural equation models applied to two waves of data from the National Survey of Midlife in the United States (MIDUS), we find that frequency of contact with neighbors is positively related to volunteering, but there is no reciprocal effect. Frequency of social engagement does not predict future volunteering but volunteers tend to become more socially engaged with their neighbors. Perceptions of neighbors as trusting are unrelated to volunteering.


John Wilson and Joonmo Son





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