New Yorkers have been rushing out to volunteer in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, distributing much-needed food and supplies, cleaning up debris and beautifying parks.
But they have not always been so generous with their time. A 2010 U.S. Census Bureau survey found that only 18.5 percent of New York City metropolitan area respondents did unpaid work for an organization in the previous 12 months, far lower than the national average of 26.3 percent.
Of the 51 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, only Miami had a lower volunteer rate.
New York City’s 2008 volunteer rate of 16.6 percent and its 2009 volunteer rate of 16.4 percent were even worse. Numbers for the 2011 rate are expected out next month.
“Long commute times, lower rates of home ownership, a higher percentage of people living in multi-unit housing, lower volunteer retention rate,” Chris Spera, director of research and evaluation at the Corporation for National and Community Service, said as to why there are fewer volunteers here than elsewhere.
He pointed out that about one in two city residents take part in less formal giving back, such as helping their neighbors.
"New Yorkers have shown incredible compassion and generosity in response to Hurricane Sandy,” he added.
Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, likewise doubted that New Yorkers were any less altruistic or charitable.
“People are better than what the census numbers seem to indicate,” Levy told Metro. “You’re seeing evidence right now of New Yorkers trying to lend a hand.”
New York State performed nearly as poorly as New York City in the U.S. Census Bureau survey.
In 2010, 21.4 percent of respondents reported volunteering in the previous 12 months, putting it ahead of only four other states. The year before, New York’s 19.3 percent volunteer rate ranked dead last.
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Metropolitan areas with the highest volunteer rates between 2008 and 2010
1) Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.: 37.1 percent
2) Portland, Ore.: 36.2 percent
3) Salt Lake City, Utah: 34.1 percent
Metropolitan areas with the lowest volunteer rates between 2008 and 2010
1) Miami, Fla.: 15.2 percent
2) New York, N.Y.: 17.2 percent
3) Las Vegas, Nev.: 19.0 percent