WASHINGTON — DESPITE their sometimes being stereotyped as selfish and self-centered, American teenagers do voluntary charitable work at about the same rate as adults, a new study reported Tuesday. And, between trips to the mall and the movies, teens also dig into their pockets to do good, with 48 percent of teenagers contributing money to causes last year.
The average contribution was $46.
The findings by Independent Sector, an umbrella group of voluntary, nonprofit groups and big donors, come on the heels of a mid-November survey that found a marked increase in giving and volunteering by the adults of the baby-boom generation.
``This news [about teens], coupled with that of the adult survey, paints an optimistic picture of the future capacity for volunteering and giving in America,'' says Independent Sector president Brian O'Connell.
``These findings certainly fly in the face of those who say that philanthropy in America is eroding with each generation.''
The survey of teens found that 58 percent of American teenagers volunteered in 1989, compared with 54 percent of adults. Teens averaged 3.9 hours of volunteer time each week and more than one-fourth of the teen volunteers gave five or more hours each week.
According to Independent Sector, that meant a total of 1.6 billion hours of volunteer time by teens in 1989.
Schools and religious organizations emerged as the primary institutions that get teenagers involved in voluntary activities, with 52 percent of the teen volunteers indicating they got involved through their school and 50 percent citing their church or synagogue.
Through the schools, teens were most likely to get involved as volunteers in areas of arts, culture and humanities (78 percent), education (74 percent), human services (55 percent), and environmental causes (52 percent).
A growing emphasis on community service by schools is apparently having a positive impact on teen volunteering, according to the survey.
Among the 61 percent of respondents who reported their schools encouraged community service, 69 percent actually volunteered. Among the 28 percent who reported their school did not encourage community service, however, just 44 percent volunteered.
About 10 percent of the young people said their schools required a certain number of hours in community service for graduation, while 26 percent said their schools offered one course or more in which community service was required.
Membership in religious institutions has a major impact on both volunteering and contributing, the survey found. Among the 75 percent of teens who reported membership in religious institutions, 62 percent volunteered and 56 percent contributed money to causes. Among the 25 percent who said they were not members of a religious group, just 44 percent volunteered and 25 percent contributed.