The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that encourages US citizens to volunteer, particularly for federal programs like AmeriCorps. They also have an excellent data site that provides statistics on civic engagement. We used their data extraction tool to pull a few datasets, which are posted on the Library’s data repository. 

Here is a bar chart of the percentage of the population of large US cities which, in the previous 12 months, volunteered for a formal organization. The chart shows the averages for the years 2004 to 2011, including the standard deviation from year to year for a single city as an error bar. The numbers on the right indicate rank.

Civic Engagement

San Diego appears s #27 on this list, in the middle of the pack. But notice that there is large deviation, so from year to year a city’s ranking can change a lot.

Here is a similar chart, with averages for the years 2004 to 2011, but this time showing number of volunteer hours, per year, per capita. This data has an even larger standard deviation, about 20% of the average. I suspect that the variance is due more to variations in the quality of the data rather than year-over-year variation. Regardless of the reason for the variation, the large deviations mean that a city’s specific rank is somewhat random.

Volunteer Hours

Overall, averaged over all years and all cities, 27% ± 5% of urban Americans volunteer, contributing 35±10 hours per year.

If you are interested in doing your own analysis, visit the data extraction tool at Volunteering In America, or go to our data repository for the files used in this analysis.