Apr 18, 2023 - News

Chicago is one of the most helpful cities, survey says

Illustration of a hand raising and turning into a heart.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

If you need a favor in Chicago, you might be in luck.

Driving the news: The Chicago metro area ranked near the top of the nation's biggest metro areas surveyed on volunteerism and civic engagement by AmeriCorps, in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

Why it matters: Community service not only makes a difference in other people's lives, but volunteering can improve your mental health, provide a sense of purpose and build support systems, according to Mayo Clinic.

  • Plus, it's National Volunteer Week — a time to recognize the impact of volunteering nationwide.

By the numbers: We ranked No. 3 in formal volunteerism with an organization, just behind Philly and Washington, D.C.

  • We also ranked No. 3 in belonging to a civic organization and "informal helping," which includes things like doing a favor for a neighbor.
  • We ranked No. 2 in charitable giving.

Zoom in: The survey, conducted during the height of the pandemic between September 2020 and 2021, found that 27.6% of Chicago metro residents volunteered through an organization and 54.6% helped a neighbor.

Meanwhile, 29% of top-ranked Philadelphians volunteered with an organization, and 58% of Bostonians said they helped a neighbor.

Zoom out: When the Washington Post averaged the data from 2017 to 2021 and expanded it to include 88 U.S. metros, we dropped to the middle of the pack at No. 43.

  • Provo, Utah, topped the chart.

Between the lines: Income, education level, citizenship and race play a role in civic engagement rankings, the Post reports.

What they're saying: "It comes down to time, money and civic skills," Mike Hanmer, director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland, told the Post.

  • "And we know that those things are not evenly distributed throughout the population," he said. "Systematically, certain groups — particularly members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in our society — haven't had the same access and the same opportunities."

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