Document Type


Publication Date

September 2004

Journal or Book Title

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly




Why are some communities more civically engaged than others? Why do some communities provide services with volunteer labor whereas others rely primarily on government provision? When communities provide both volunteer and paid labor for the same service, how do they motivate and organize those volunteers? This article addresses these questions through quantitative tests of prevailing explanations for levels of civic engagement (e.g., education, TV viewing, urbanization) and qualitative analyses of case studies of three medium-sized cities in Japan, focusing particularly on the service areas of firefighting and elder care. The statistical analyses demonstrate that current explanations that rely on individual characteristics cannot predict or explain volunteer participation at the community level of analysis. Using the case study data, a model is developed to predict the rate of volunteer participation in a community. It is concluded that the practices of governmental and social institutions—how well they legitimize, fund, and organize volunteers—determine the rate of volunteer participation in a community.