Social Inequalities in Youth Volunteerism: A Life-Track Perspective on Danish Youths

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Civic participation among today’s youth is a topic of widespread concern for policy-makers, academics, and the publics of Western countries at large. Though scholars have increasingly become aware of deep-rooted social inequalities in access to volunteering in the adult population, differences in opportunity structures that facilitate participation among young people are rarely recognized. In this paper, I put forward a ‘life-track perspective’ on youth volunteerism that highlights crucial within-group differences among youths. I present empirical findings from a unique Danish national survey with multiple waves enriched with national register data. The study sheds light on the changing importance of longstanding dividing lines—gender, social class, and education—in volunteering trends among the young. While young people are seemingly more gender-equal in their volunteering behavior than older cohorts, higher education as a gateway to volunteering is of much greater importance among the young. This educational ‘elitism’ in volunteering has, furthermore, intensified among young people between 2004 and 2012.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)160-173
Publication statusPublished - 1. Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Civic engagement
  • Life-track
  • Social inequality
  • Status positions
  • Youth volunteerism

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