WASHINGTON - People in this country have been volunteering at record levels in the years following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but that voluntary service dipped slightly in 2006, a study found.
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More than a fourth of the population, 26.7 percent, did volunteer work in 2006, down from 28.8 percent the previous year, according to a new report by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The top five states for volunteerism in the new report were Utah, Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska and Kansas, with a high volunteer rate at from 45.9 percent in Utah and 38.8 percent in Alaska.
The lowest five were Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, New York and Nevada with volunteer rates ranging from 24.2 percent in Mississippi to 17.5 percent in Nevada.
The study also looked at civic engagement in the country, including activities like voting and neighborhood engagement. The top states for levels of civic engagement were Montana, Vermont, Alaska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
An increase in volunteerism from 20.4 percent in 1989 to 26.7 percent in 2006 was heavily influenced by a sharp increase - almost doubling - in the volunteer rates of youth ages 16-19, according to the report, released at the start of National Volunteer Week.
State rankings in levels of volunteerism
Western states near top
1. Utah, 45.9 percent
2. Nebraska, 42.4 percent
3. Minnesota, 40.4 percent
4. Alaska, 38.8 percent
5. Kansas, 38.3 percent
6. Iowa, 38.0 percent
7. Montana, 37.7 percent
8. Wyoming, 37.3 percent
9. South Dakota, 37.2 percent
9. Vermont, 37.2 percent
Source: Corporation for National and Community Service. Study is based on a three-year average of volunteer rates.
"Out of the tragedy of 9/11 and the devastation of hurricanes has come an unmistakable good: a strong interest in volunteering and community involvement," said Eisner. But he said there's plenty to be done to expand the country's service to others.
The percentage of beginning college students who believe it is very important to help others in difficulty reached a 25-year high in 2005, the Higher Education Research Institute found.
Eisner called the young people "the 9/11 generation."
"They came of age during 9/11. They learned new habits of responsibility, new habits of volunteering and those have stuck," he said.
But volunteerism rates have increased for most age groups.
The volunteer rate for seniors has increased from 16.9 percent in 1989 to 23.8 percent 2006. Volunteerism among adults ages 45-64 has also increased since 1989.
The overall volunteer rate was at 27.4 percent in 2002 and has stayed close to that level for the past five years.