The Psycho-Social Processes Linking Income and Volunteering: Chronic Financial Strain and Well-Being

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The positive effect of income on volunteering found in many studies is conventionally explained in utilitarian terms: volunteer work is “costly” or demands “resources.” This explanation overlooks important sociopsychological processes. By situating the income-volunteering relationship within the stress process framework, we develop a theory that traces the influence of income on chronic financial strain which in turn affects subjective well-being, which functions as a psychological resource for volunteers. Data taken from two waves of the National Survey of Midlife in the United States confirm this theory: household income has no direct effect on volunteering once chronic financial strain and two measures of subjective well-being—social and eudaimonic—are taken into account.

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