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1. Main facts and figures

  • from 2016 to 2017, a quarter of Black respondents took part in regular formal volunteering, a similar percentage to White respondents

  • those of Asian and Mixed ethnicity were less likely to volunteer at least once a month on a formal basis

Things you need to know

The Community Life Survey (previously the Citizenship Survey) is a ‘sample survey’: it collects information from a random sample of the population to make generalisations (reach 'findings’) about the total population.

Keep in mind when making comparisons between ethnic groups that all survey estimates are subject to a degree of uncertainty, as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for Other ethnic groups.

The commentary only refers to differences between groups where they are 'statistically significant'. Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample. Specifically, the statistical tests used mean we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population, 19 times out of 20 we would get similar findings.

Results by ethnic group are available in the reference tables of the latest Community Life Survey publication.

What the data measures

The data measures the percentage of adults who had volunteered formally at least once a month over the last 12 months, broken down by ethnicity.

Formal volunteering means providing unpaid help through groups, clubs or other organisations.

Informal volunteering, on the other hand, typically involves doing unpaid work for friends or family.

The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of adults surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 5 broad groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other

2. Regular formal volunteering by ethnicity

Percentage of adults who formally volunteered at least once a month by ethnicity
Ethnicity % Respondents
All 22 10,256
Asian 17 1,111
Black 25 360
Mixed 16 467
White 23 8,022
Other 23 163

Download table data for ‘Regular formal volunteering by ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Regular formal volunteering by ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Volunteering Regular formal volunteering by ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • 25% of Black respondents took part in regular formal volunteering, a similar percentage to White respondents and those from the Other ethnic group, at 23%

  • those of Asian and Mixed ethnicity were less likely to volunteer formally at least once a month, at 17% and 16% respectively

3. Methodology

The Community Life Survey is a survey of households in England. It is carried out through questionnaires that respondents complete online or on paper. The 2016/17 survey consisted of a sample size of 10,256 individuals.

The survey has deliberately surveyed more households from ethnic minority groups (excluding White ethnic minorities). This is because the smaller populations of these groups would otherwise give less reliable results.

The results for this sample have been weighted to be representative of the population of England in terms of age, gender, degree level education, housing tenure, region, household size and ethnic group. This helped to compensate for any differences between adults who were more likely to respond to the survey and those less likely to. It also took account of the over-sampling in any national estimates.

In 2016/17, the survey moved from face-to-face to online/paper data collection. This change in data collection method means results for 2016/17 are not comparable with results for earlier years.

The 2016/17 survey sample is large enough for the results to be broken down by the broad ethnic groups. In previous years, sample sizes for this survey were conducted face to face and in more recent years they had considerably smaller sample sizes. The smaller samples sizes meant it was only possible to compare ethnic groups at a very high level, comparing White adults with adults of all Other ethnic groups.

In the most recent survey years, sample sizes were anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 respondents, which was too small for reliable conclusions about differences between the White and Other ethnic groups.

For these reasons, results for 2016/17 are not being compared with those from previous surveys. For earlier years, results for ‘White’ and ‘Other’ are available in the published tables in the series of releases for the Community Life Survey.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Results are not published when based on fewer than 30 respondents. All the results presented here are based on sample sizes of more than 100 respondents.


Estimates in the charts and tables are given to the nearest percentage. More detailed estimates to 1 decimal place are available in the download.

Quality and methodology information

4. Data sources


Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics


Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

The Community Life Survey tracks developments in areas that are important to encouraging social action and empowering communities.

These include:

  • volunteering and charitable giving
  • neighbourhood (views about the local area, community cohesion and belonging)
  • civic engagement and social action
  • well-being

5. Download the data

Regular formal volunteering - Spreadsheet (csv) 588 bytes

This file contains the following: ethnicity, time, value, sample size