Three European scholars have confirmed the obvious: Government social programs crowd out private ones.

Franz Hackl, Martin Halla, and Gerald J. Pruckner, all of Austria’s University of Linz, have this to say:

* “An increase of in public social expenditure by 1 percentage point of GDP decreases the individual’s probability of volunteering by 1.7 up to 2.9 percentage points.” Total volunteering declines by 5.1 to 8.7 percent.

* People tend to volunteer less when their preferred politician is in control of the government.

* “Religiosity and a more unequal income distribution in a country increase individuals’ willingness to volunteer.” This last point would seem to hold true in the U.S., which features, compared with the typical wealthy European country, (a) a higher degree of religiosity; (b) more income inequality; and (c) more volunteerism.

There’s a lot more in this paper than I’ve touched on, including the effects of a civil-liberties culture, and income redistribution. Also, the paper covers OECD countries, including but not only the U.S. That’s both good and bad. That means it speaks more to the human condition generally than a U.S.-focused paper would. But it also dilutes what may be unique qualities of American government (federalism, a presidential system) and culture. It might be useful to compare this paper with other work in the American context, especially that of Arthur Brooks. This is one of those papers I’d like to revisit when I have more time.

(Hat tip to Harvard Business Review, which carried this headline: Volunteerism drops as governments raise social spending.)