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SUMMARY

Although intrinsic motivations receive increasing attention in explaining human actions, our knowledge on their causes and effects is incomplete. Quite surprisingly, the existing literature fails to consider the relationship between intrinsic motivations and social capital formation. The present paper increases the understanding on the effect of intrinsic motivations by studying the role that different motivations to volunteer have on the creation of volunteers' social capital which is intended as networks of cooperative relations.

Our empirical analysis considers three indices of social capital, aimed at measuring both the quantitative (number) and the qualitative (degree of familiarity and cooperation) character of social relations, and intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to volunteer (ideal motivations, the desire to feel useful to others, the pursuit of social recognition and the desire to increase the number of acquaintances or friends).

We find that the creation of social capital through participation in voluntary associations is not indifferent to the motivations which induced the volunteer to start his/her unpaid activity. In particular, we show that intrinsic motivations enable people to extend their social networks by creating relations characterized by a significant degree of familiarity. By contrast, extrinsic motivations, and in particular the decision to join an association in order to increase the number of acquaintances or friends, promote the creation of networks from a quantitative point of view, but they do not facilitate the creation of relations based on a particular degree of confidence.