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Title:Teaching altruism: essays examining the impact of education on volunteerism among young adults
Author(s):Dunick, Jason
Director of Research:Powers, Elizabeth T.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Powers, Elizabeth T.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Lubotsky, Darren H.; Akresh, Richard S.; Laschever, Ron A.
Department / Program:Economics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
civic engagement
secondary education
post-secondary education
public goods
Abstract:This dissertation is composed of three chapters that each examine the impact of education on the volunteerism of young adults. Below are the individual abstracts for each chapter. Chapter 1: All Work and No Pay Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, there has been a steady increase in the overall volunteering rate among youth. Much of this change is led by an increase in volunteerism among students who apply to selective colleges, as these students account for more than 70 percent of the total volunteers in 2004. This trend is accompanied by an overall increase in the competitiveness among selective schools during the same time period. To explore the role of college selectivity in influencing volunteerism, this research uses a difference-in-differences approach that specifically controls for both ELS cohort fixed-effects and group fixed-effects for students who apply to selective colleges. The results indicate that the volunteering rate for this group of students is increasing by 5 to 8 percentage-points more than all other students. In particular, participation in school service organizations, religious organizations, and neighborhood social action groups is increasing significantly. These estimates are robust to the inclusion of control variables that measure changes in cognitive ability, work preferences, and altruistic attitudes, and the results imply that the changes to the college admission environment provides the most plausible explanation for much of the trend. Chapter 2: Teaching Altruism Over the past ten years, the use of mandatory community service requirements in high school has become increasingly popular. To assess its impact, this study uses data from the ELS: 2002 survey to examine the effects of mandatory community service on civic behavior both during high school and two years after high school. Using a probit regression framework, this study finds that mandatory service does increase the probability of volunteering during high school; however, the students that are exposed to such a requirement are less likely to report that helping in the community is very important. After high school, this policy has a modest positive effect on the probability of volunteering, but no measurable impact on the probability of voting. To address the potential selection bias in these estimates, this study draws a comparison group of students from the earlier NELS: 88 cohort who are attending schools with similar characteristics as the schools with mandatory service programs in the later ELS cohort but have not adopted such a policy. The results from incorporating this new comparison group into a difference-in-differences framework are consistent with the cross-section regression results using only the ELS sample. Chapter 3: Do Four-Year Colleges Produce Better Citizens? While many studies have identified a positive correlation between attending a four-year school and civic behavior rates, the exact size and scope of this relationship is largely unknown. This research merges data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS) with the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS) and the Common Core of Data (CCD) to develop a new instrumental variable approach for assessing the extent of this relationship. The results from a bivariate probit model show that attending a four-year school anytime during early adulthood appears to have a very strong impact on voting behaviors. In addition, if a student enrolls full-time in a four-year school immediately after high school they increase their probability of volunteering by nearly 8 percentage points. This effect is both immediate and persistent, as quick enrollment after high school has a positive impact on volunteering both two and eight years after high school.
Issue Date:2010-08-20
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Jason Dunick
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-08-20
Date Deposited:2010-08

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