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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

(1) Is volunteering a political activity? (2) Union dissolution and women's economic activity in the UK Seminar

7 October 2011
Building 58 Room 1065 Highfield Campus University of Southampton

Event details

Social Statistics and Demography Seminar Series: two PGR student presentations

Victoria Bolton: Is volunteering a political activity?

Robert Putnam's assertion that "volunteering is part of the syndrome of good citizenship and political involvement" (2000: 132) has enormous appeal to policy makers, but the precise nature of the syndrome has been difficult to pin down (Fine, 2010).

Policy makers are naturally attracted by the idea that an increase in rates of volunteering could produce an increase in political involvement. But is the relationship causal or associational? The relationship is difficult to describe, in part because of limitations in the available data. Some of the variations in the survey data are particularly difficult to explain. In general, one would expect higher rates of volunteering to be associated with higher social class, higher incomes, higher educational qualifications and more political activity.

Data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS), a cohort study following children born in a particular week in 1958, reveal a reversal in this relationship for a single wave, conducted when the respondents were 16 years old. If the data are symptomatic of a true relationship reversal, there could be wide-ranging policy implications. By the time they are 50, these 16 year old volunteers are virtually indistinguishable from their non-volunteering peers.

If volunteering at age 16 does nothing to change respondents' life-long engagement with politics and society, does it still have the same policy value?

Deborah Wiltshire: Union dissolution and women's economic activity in the UK

Divorce rates in the UK rose sharply from the 1960's and policy and scientific discussion of this rise has occurred alongside rhetoric about the decline of the family and the impact of divorce and single-parent families on social and child wellbeing. Across the 20th century trends in economic activity among married women have also been upwards and theories have emerged that suggest that female employment may be a factor in the rise in divorce. Using retrospective union and employment histories collected in the British Household Panel Survey, this study is re-examining the association between economic activity and union dissolution. The sample includes 4147 women who at the 1992 interviews had had a first union, 25% of which had ended in dissolution. A number of variables have been derived to summarise work experience up to the start of the union along with variables relating to person and union-specific characteristics. A series of univariate Cox proportional hazard models show that many of the employment summary measures are associated with the risk of experiencing dissolution, although the direction of the association varies depending on which measure is used. The results from multivariate models show that when union and person-specific variables are introduced, only one employment measure remains significant and the direction of the association is not as expected from the existing literature. A further comparison of unions based on when they started suggests that the effect of employment may be changing over time.

Speaker information

Victoria Bolton,PhD student, Social Statistics and Demography, University of Southampton

Deborah Wiltshire,PhD student, Social Statistics and Demography, University of Southampton

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