Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Civic Core in the Netherlands is Getting More Religious, and Less Educated

You probably know the 80/20 rule: 80% of all Y is done by only 20% of the actors. Y is whatever behavior you may be interested in. In many studies in the social sciences the outcomes of interest to researchers and policy makers are negative: drinking, lying, bullying, property crime. Would the 80/20 rule also hold for giving and volunteering? And if so, who is in the 20% of the population that consistutes the ‘Civic Core’? This term was coined by two statisticians from Canada, Paul Reed and Kevin Selbee in their 2001 article in NVSQ.

For charitable giving in the Netherlands the 80/20 rule applies, but for volunteering it does not. I found this in an analysis of all the data from our Giving in the Netherlands research. Over all the surveys covering the period 1997-2009 (n=9,696), exactly 80% of all donations reported by the respondents comes from the top 20% of donors. For volunteer hours the distribution is more skewed: the top quintile is responsible for 86% of all hours volunteered between 1997 and 2009.

Religious persons donate higher amounts, also when donations to religion are excluded from the analyses. Even more strikingly, this dominance of religious persons in the civic core is increasing. While total donations by non-religious households have declined in inflation-adjusted Euros from about €140 in 1997 to about €100 in 2009, donations by Catholics and Protestants have increased since 1997. Thus, the more generous donors are increasingly likely to be religious. The analyses for volunteering reveal that over time Protestants have become more active as volunteers.

While religious affiliation has become more characteristic of the civic core, a higher level of education has become less characteristic. Traditionally, research on giving and volunteering finds that citizens with higher levels of education are more likely to donate, donate higher amounts, and volunteer more often. Over the period 1997-2009, however, the dominance of higher educated citizens in the civic core has diminished. This finding casts doubt on the scenario that educational expansion – an increasing level of education in society – compensates for the effects of secularization on giving and volunteering in the Netherlands.

These are the highlights of the paper “Religion and the Civic Core in the Netherlands“, presented on December 8, 2011 at the conference “Volunteering, Religion and Social Capital” at the University of Antwerp.

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