Soldiers to Citizens: The Link between Military Service and Volunteering


Rebecca Nesbit is an assistant professor of nonprofit management in the Department of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She received a doctorate in public affairs from Indiana University and a master of public administration from Brigham Young University. Her areas of research include civic engagement, volunteering, nonprofit management, and arts administration.

David A. Reingold is a professor of public policy and executive associate dean in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Currently, he is chairman of the Indiana Commission on Community Service and Volunteerism. From 2002 to 2004, he served as director of research and policy development at the U.S. Corporation for National and Community Service. His primary teaching and research areas include urban poverty, social policy, low-income housing policy, civil society, and government performance. His research has appeared in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Social Service Review, Urban Studies, Journal of Urban Affairs, and Housing Studies, among other social science journals.


Research shows that military service is linked with political engagement, such as voting. This connection is strongest for minorities. The authors explore the relationship between military service and volunteering. They conclude that military service helps overcome barriers to volunteering by socializing people with civic responsibility norms, by providing social resources and skills that compensate for the lack of personal resources, and by making veterans aware of opportunities to volunteer as well as asking them to do so. Military service is positively related to volunteering among blacks and Hispanics. Married veterans are more likely to volunteer than nonveterans. Veterans who served during wartime are more likely to volunteer than those who served in peacetime.