Half of all Americans over 16 provided informal help to neighbors during the pandemic. Community members helped their neighbors by doing favors like providing free childcare and running errands like going grocery shopping. About a quarter of Americans 16 and older reported formally volunteering with an organization during the same time.
People found unique ways to formally and informally volunteer in their communities by supporting COVID-19 testing efforts, immunization efforts, providing food to food banks, doing wellness checks on senior citizens, and providing tutoring and mentoring services to help school-aged kids.
Research from the Census Bureau and AmeriCorps found that volunteers in the US gave more than 4.1 billion hours of formal volunteering service in 2021, with an estimated economic value of $122.9 billion.
Which states had the most volunteer help?
Overall, Utah and Wyoming had the highest rates of residents formally volunteering with an organization in 2021. On the other hand, Florida had the lowest volunteering rates during that same time period.
When it comes to helping community members, more than two-thirds of Montana residents informally helped their neighbors — the highest rate of any state. Nebraska and Maine residents followed closely with at least 65% reporting they helped their neighbors in 2021.
Over half of people aged 16 and older (that’s 124.7 million people) provided informal help to their neighbors between September 2020 and 2021. And more than 60 million people, or 23% of that age group, volunteered with an organization during the same time, according to the Census Bureau.
Generation X (ages 41 to 56) had the highest rate of volunteering compared to all other generations in 2021. But when looking at volunteer rates by age, 16-to-17-year-olds had the highest rate of volunteering at 28%, compared to all other age groups. People ages 45 to 54 followed at a close second, with 27% formally volunteering.
Between 2019 and 2021, nearly a quarter of Americans formally volunteered through an organization. Formal volunteering rates were steady between 2002 and 2019 before declining 7 percentage points in 2021, the largest change in at least two decades. This dip in volunteering in 2021 may be related to more organizations closing during the pandemic.
Where does the data come from?
The research and data come from AmeriCorps and the Census Bureau. They partner together to release volunteering data every two years. Data shows trends in formal volunteering, informal helping and other civic engagement activities nationally, at the state level, and in metro areas.