Happy to Help: The Welfare Effects of a Nationwide Micro-Volunteering Programme

93 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2021

See all articles by Paul Dolan

Paul Dolan

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Christian Krekel

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

Ganga Shreedhar

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

Helen Lee

NHS England and NHS Improvement

Claire Marshall

NHS England and NHS Improvement

Allison Smith

Royal Voluntary Service

Abstract

There is a strong suggestion from the existing literature that volunteering improves the wellbeing of those who give up their time to help others, but much of it is correlational and not causal. In this paper, we estimate the wellbeing benefits from volunteering for England's National Health Service (NHS) Volunteer Responders programme, which was set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Using a sample of over 9,000 volunteers, we exploit the oversubscription of the programme and the random assignment of volunteering tasks to estimate causal wellbeing returns, across multiple counterfactuals. We find that active volunteers report significantly higher life satisfaction, feelings of worthwhileness, social connectedness, and belonging to their local communities. A social welfare analysis shows that the benefits of the programme were at least 140 times greater than its costs. Our findings advance our understanding of the ways in which pro-social behaviours can improve personal wellbeing as well as social welfare.

JEL Classification: I31, I38, D61, D64

Suggested Citation

Dolan, Paul and Krekel, Christian and Shreedhar, Ganga and Lee, Helen and Marshall, Claire and Smith, Allison, Happy to Help: The Welfare Effects of a Nationwide Micro-Volunteering Programme. IZA Discussion Paper No. 14431, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3865456

Paul Dolan (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Christian Krekel

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

Ganga Shreedhar

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

Helen Lee

NHS England and NHS Improvement

United Kingdom

Claire Marshall

NHS England and NHS Improvement

United Kingdom

Allison Smith

Royal Voluntary Service

United Kingdom

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