Surprising Persistence of Direct Volunteering in the Global North

Finally, another source of surprise may be the levels of direct volunteering among citizens in the global North. It is well to remember that a gap is something that opens between at least two entities, either or both of which can move, and in either direction. As noted at the outset, the idea that gave rise to the belief that the gap between volunteering rates in the global North and those in the global South would narrow and potentially reverse once direct volunteering came into view assumed that direct volunteering would slowly disappear as the global North modernized and replaced inadequate traditional relationships with more modern formal ones.

In practice, however, direct volunteering has stubbornly refused to disappear in the developed North. To the contrary, it has engaged more people for more time, albeit perhaps in different pursuits—sports, recreation, civic activism, advocacy, self-help, and culture rather than social welfare assistance as before. As direct volunteering in poor countries has grown and come into view, direct volunteering in well-off countries has continued to survive, and even to grow, so that the gap between the two barely narrows at all, and may even expand. In other words, the persistence of a gap in relative volunteering rates between residents of better-off and less-well-off countries even after direct volunteering is brought into the picture may have less to do with the volunteering underachievement of the latter than the volunteering overachievement of the former.

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