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Beyond the Market: Designing Nonmarket Accounts for the United States
Third, improvement is needed in the coverage of giving and volunteering in household surveys. The private surveys that have been conducted generally have small sample sizes and relatively low response rates, and they are not conducted on a regular basis. Even the CPS supplement data cited earlier may be subject to bias related to the length of the recall period for which respondents are asked to report their volunteer activities. The ATUS should be a boon to researchers wanting to compile data on time spent in volunteer activities.
Fourth, new surveys of nonprofit institutions could provide much valuable information. Two types of additional information would be particularly useful. On the input side, existing data on volunteering have been derived almost exclusively from household surveys. It would be valuable to have data on volunteering from the perspective of the recipient nonprofit and government organizations. How much volunteer time is used by organizations of various sizes and in various industries? Would the organizations use more volunteer time if it were available—that is, are they supply constrained? What would it cost to hire people to perform the work now done by volunteers? Would they hire the replacements if the volunteers were not available? What is the most they would pay if they had to hire them? Turning from volunteers to other unpriced inputs, what kinds, and how much, of other donated inputs do they receive—food, equipment, office or production space, and so on? On the output side, how do organizations measure their performance? How do they, or would they, estimate the value of the outputs? Whether the typical nonprofit organization would be able to answer all of these questions is uncertain, but there would be value in attempting to learn what information they can provide.
Fifth, it would be useful to identify and develop data that create options for valuing hours spent in volunteer activities. Shadow wages based on similar paid occupations would be a sensible starting point, but research to assess the relative productivity of paid and volunteer labor performing similar tasks also would be worthwhile.
In considering how to progress with research to develop government and nonprofit satellite accounts, it is important to keep clear the distinction between what is optimal conceptually versus what is the best that can be done operationally. This chapter has only touched on the complications inherent in the construction of these satellite accounts. Pieces of the puzzle are within grasp. This report, and others, have described how a nation’s volunteer labor inputs could be counted and valued. Such data would be useful to research in a number of policy areas—for example, that aimed at improving provision of public services and defining the role of the state—even if it is missing the output side valuation needed for a fully specified income and product account. It is realistic to believe that an account can be organized to provide a more comprehensive picture of the market