OVER ONE MILLION PEOPLE in the United States volunteered internationally in 2008, an increase from 145,000 in 2004. While a seemingly positive trend, there’s a caveat: Most of these volunteers are WEIRD.
That is, the typical volunteer is white, educated, industrialized, rich, and from a democratic culture. The concept of WEIRD people has been discussed in psychology, with some researchers positing that perhaps white undergraduate students are not indicative of worldwide views (Jones, 2010). However, I thought it was incredibly applicable in international volunteering contexts as well. In a study by Lough (2010), over half of the sample of volunteers had a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 88% were white. In addition, McBride and Lough (2010) found that white people were more than twice as likely to volunteer abroad than black people. And 1 in 3 volunteers lived in a home with an income of over $100,000.