Picture of Time Given

In a final analysis we take a brief look at the combined time to volunteer and take political action in order to assess if by viewing the two under the same lens we can brighten our image of American giving. Figure 1.10 illustrates how nonwork time is distributed toward answering: What proportion of time do Americans spend on volunteering and political action compared to leisure and other activities? We have used estimates of waking and work hours to generate this chart, so it is not meant to be analyzed with any specificity; rather it provides a visual summary of our respondents’ approximate use of time. The respondents are sorted according to the proportion of time they spent leisuring (bottom), and the chart illustrates how the combination of leisure and other activities fills Americans’ nonwork, discretionary hours. The lines representing volunteering and political action time are short and often barely discernible. There are a few exceptions in which political action or volunteering consumes more of a respondent’s free time than leisure and other activities. However, in the vast majority of occurrences, volunteering and political action are mere blips on the radar of how Americans use their time.

When we compare volunteering and political action to other uses of Americans’ spare time, the picture grows dimmer yet. The vast majority of Americans spend more than twice as much of their discretionary time on shopping as on volunteering or taking political action. Even for people with the most available time (e.g., nonelderly retirees, the unemployed, and part-time workers/students), shopping still consumes as much time as volunteering and taking political action combined. Thus

Percentage of nonwork time spent on leisure, volunteering, political action, and other activities

figure 1.10 Percentage of nonwork time spent on leisure, volunteering, political action, and other activities.

even when we exclude watching TV and surfing the Internet, which may occur during night hours when people cannot easily donate their time, we still see an incredibly low amount of spare time donated to any charitable cause.

So while simply combining the numbers of volunteering and political action does allow for a slight improvement in our picture of American giving, the snapshot is still quite dim. Volunteering and especially political action are rare activities for all but a handful of Americans whose donated time exceeds the time they devote to other discretionary activities. Even for Americans who have relatively large amounts of discretionary time, volunteering and political action take up few hours compared to the hours spent watching TV, surfing the Internet, or shopping. Able-bodied and nonelderly Americans and those who work less than full time donate slightly more hours, but still just a small proportion of their overall discretionary time.

Based on this analysis of the Big 3 forms of giving, it appears that Americans are not terribly generous with their money or their time, at least not on a regular basis. There are a number of other ways that people can give, however, and we will examine these other forms of generosity before we dive deeper into analyses of why Americans differ in their giving.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >