Closing the Gap? New Perspectives on Volunteering North and South
This chapter brings new data to bear on the long-standing question of whether apparent North–South disparities in rates of volunteering result from the widespread failure to take account of direct, as opposed to organization-based, volunteering in most official volunteering surveys. To do so, it first outlines some of the misconceptions, definitional obstacles, and methodological glitches that have afflicted efforts to measure volunteering cross-nationally in the past. It then outlines the considerable progress that has been made by international statistical authorities to remedy these problems. Finally, it brings new data to bear on the question of whether apparent North–South disparities in volunteer effort disappear once direct volunteering is brought into the picture. Ultimately, the conclusion that emerges is that when both organization-based and direct volunteering are taken into account, the total amount of volunteer work that becomes visible is massively increased and the absolute disparities in the amount of volunteer work between better-off and less-well-off countries narrows. But the relative disparities in volunteering rates remain stubbornly unmoved. The article suggests that this may have more to do with volunteering overperformance on the part of well-off country residents than any volunteering underperformance on the part of less-well-offcountry residents.