Study: Poor People More Likely to Get a Job If They Work for Free First

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?searchterm=unemployment&search_group=&lang=en&search_source=search_form#id=124086634&src=puVzX1zSasl7OFo9PSvRsQ-1-9">iluistrator</a>/Shutterstock

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The current share of the American population with a job is still far below what it was before the recession, stagnating at a level not seen since the 1980s. And the jobs that have been regained since 2008 have overwhelmingly been low-wage. But now there’s good news for unskilled unemployed people who are interested in getting one of those low-wage jobs—working for free can help them eventually land a paid gig.

A new study to be released Tuesday by a federal agency called the Corporation for National and Community Service found that jobless Americans can increase their chances of finding work by 27 percent if they volunteer first. People without a high school diploma and people in rural areas can increase their chances by more than 50 percent, the Washington Post reports.

Volunteering is useful for people at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, Christopher Spera, the lead author of the study, explained to the Post, because they don’t have the same opportunities as better-off Americans: “Folks with lower levels of education tend not to have the networks and social capital enjoyed by folks with higher levels of education,” he says. Here’s the Post on how volunteering can help:

The report builds on other research that has found that volunteering helps people learn skills, be presented with leadership opportunities, enhance their résumés and—perhaps most crucially—develop a network of contacts that can help them find work…

The link between volunteering and reducing joblessness was endorsed by former labor secretary Hilda L. Solis, who last year issued a guidance to state workforce agencies emphasizing that volunteering may be one strategy that can help put the unemployed—particularly the 4.4 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months—back to work.

“In a complex 21st-century economy that demands new skills of American workers, volunteerism is not a substitute for job training,” Solis said. “But it can be an important complement.”

Now we know that poor, less-educated people can benefit from unpaid work in the same way that their more well-heeled, highly-educated counterparts can. After all, unpaid internships have exploded in recent years; over half of the class of 2012 had an internship during college, and half of those were unpaid. The only difference is that when poor people work for free, their parents probably won’t be able to help them get by.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate