Volunteer transitions among older adults: The role of human, social, and cultural capital in later life

Tay K. McNamara, Ernest Gonzales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. We aim to understand how human, social, and cultural capitals are associated with the volunteer process, that is, engagement (starting), intensity (number of hours), and cessation (stopping), among older adults. Method. Data from the 2000 through 2008 Health and Retirement Study and the 2001 through 2009 Consumption and Activity Mail Survey provide a sample of 4,526 respondents. Random-effects pooled time series analyses incorporate not only the presence of various types of capital but also the quality of that capital. Results. Human and cultural capitals were positively associated with increased volunteer involvement. Effects of social capital (relationships in the family, employment status, and the community) depended on the quality of the relationships, not necessarily on their presence alone. Discussion. Results suggest that bolstering older adults' capitals, particularly among lower socioeconomic status groups, can increase volunteer engagement and intensity and reduce cessation. Additionally, a variety of organizational policies including respite programs for caregivers and employer policies allowing employees to reduce their work hours might indirectly affect participation rates and commitment. Potential pools of volunteers exist in families, workplaces, and religious organizations, but more research is necessary to identify how to recruit and retain individuals in social networks where volunteer participatory rates are low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-501
Number of pages12
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume66 B
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Cultural capital
  • Formal and informal help
  • Human capital
  • Social capital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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