Thank you Omnivorous!
I believe in the value of the Peace Corp and I'm happy to contribute
by reposting your answer to twotmitch's question.
Subject: Re: after Peace Corps?
Answered By: omnivorous-ga on 21 Nov 2004 16:27 PST
Since the establishment of the Peace Corps in 1961 and fielding of the
first group in 1962, there have been more than 170,000 volunteers.
One of the most-significant things that has happened since the 1960s
and 1970s is that volunteers are both older and better educated.
In the first two decades of the Peace Corps volunteers averaged age 23
and few had advanced degrees. My group of 90 trainees in Bukavu,
Zaire (today once again called the Congo) in the summer of 1973 had
one medical doctor and not more than two or three with advanced
degrees. I know that we significantly increased the advanced
education after returning to the U.S., if only because my roommate and
I both obtained advanced degrees -- he in law and I in business.
Today's volunteers average age 28, with not a small number over age 50
(6%). And 14% how have graduate-level education:
Peace Corps Fact Sheet 2004
Several things happened in the past 15 years that dramatically changed
the shape of the Peace Corps. One of them was the freeing of Eastern
European economies, which attracted an older group of volunteers, many
of them with MBAs and investment banking or finance experience.
Privatization programs in Russia, Poland and elsewhere used their
skills to convert entire industries from socialized enterprises into
modern, competitive industries.
In addition, more graduate schools have been seeking work experience
for advanced degrees and the Peace Corps has commonly been the first
work experience. In some areas, such as international relations or
prep courses for the Foreign Service Entrance exam, experience as a
volunteer is common.
And finally, many volunteers return to the U.S. -- then encourage
parents to volunteer after a full career.
The list of well-known Peace Corps volunteers is impressive -- and
probably contains some surprises.
Author Paul Theroux wrote his first collection of short stories while
in Malawi (1963-65). Recently he went back to visit both Malawi and
Uganda (where he taught after his Peace Corps service at the
university). He describes it in the book "Dark Star Safari."
Chris Mathews, host of NBC's "Hardball," was a volunteer in Swaziland
(1968-70). Another TV personalities who was a volunteer is Bob Vila
There is one U.S. senator: Christopher Dodd, D-CT, (Dominican
Republic, 1966-68). Paul Tsongas, D-MA, was the first former Peace
Corps volunteer to serve in the Senate (starting in 1979).
There are two governors: Jim Doyle of Wisconsin and his wife, Jessica,
were both in Tunisia, 1967-69. And Ohio's Robert Taft, a Republican,
was in Tanzania, 1963-65.
In addition there are six U.S. representatives who are Returned Peace
Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).
And lots of us have been successful in business. When you see how
poorly government enterprises are run in some countries or get to
witness a good kleptocracy at work, it can make you an ardent
capitalist. Some well-known business people who are RPCVs include:
? Frank Buzzetta, CEO of Hecht's (India, 1968-1972)
? Robert Haas, chairman of Levis Strauss (Ivory Coast, 1964-66)
? Michael McCaskey, chairman of the Chicago Bears (Ethiopia, 1965-67)
? Tim Scanlon, a well-known computer industry analyst who's president
of Benchmarks (Chile, 1961-63)
? Priscilla Wrubel, founder of The Nature Company (Liberia, 1961-63).
The Peace Corps has lists of notable RPCVs in the following categories
on its website:
Arts & Literature
Business & Industry
Non-profit & Development
Peace Corps enrollment currently stands at 7,733, according to their
media office. You may also be interested in the status of the Peace
Corps budget, summarized in this recent Google Answer. At this
writing House & Senate conference committees still haven't fixed the
"Peace Corps," (Omnivorous-GA, Oct. 29, 2004)
Finally, I spent some time looking for a study on RPCVs that I'd seen
in the recent past. The Office of Planning Policy and Analysis
conducted a survey in 1996 with the assistance of a graduate student
who was an RPCV and the National Peace Corps Association.
The Peace Corps has agreed to forward a copy to me and I hope to post
a follow-up to this answer shortly (it's in the snail mail).
The Google search strategy used the Peace Corps site extensively, as
it's a clean well-designed site. It also referenced several books:
"What You can Do for Your Country, An Oral History of the Peace
Corps," Karen Schwarz, 1991.
"So You Want to Join the Peace Corps. . . What to Know Before You Go,"
Dillon Bannerjee, 2000.
"From the Center of the Earth. Stories out of the Peace Corps,"
Geraldine Kennedy, 1991.
Also of invaluable assistance was John Coyne, novelist and writer, who
served in Ethiopia. He runs an influential website specifically for
Peace Corps writers:
When the additional material comes in, I'll post it as a
"clarification" to this question and you should receive e-mail
notification. If the post office doesn't get the study to me by
Thanksgiving, I'll let you know as well.
RPCV, Congo/Zaire, 1973-75
MBA, University of Chicago, 1979
Clarification of Answer by omnivorous-ga on 23 Nov 2004 11:13 PST
It turns out that there have been 3 broad studies of RPCVs, with the
latest being the broadest in scope:
* one by Louis Harris & Associates in 1969
* another done by a consultant for the Office of Special Services of
ACTION/Peace Corps in 1977
* and finally one done by the Peace Corps Office of Policy, Planning
and Analysis in 1996. In size and in scope, it is by far the
broadest, answering many of your original questions about education
and career after being a volunteer.
When I started work on this Answer, I knew that there had been some
surveys done -- probably from participating in either the 1975 or 1996
But it took the efforts of two key people to get a copy of the 1996 survey:
John Coyne, author and webmaster for the Peace Corps writers site. As
a former Peace Corps colleague wrote me, "He seems to know everything
John put me in contact with the right Peace Corps staff. And it was
Douglas Moors, of the library staff at Peace Corps HQ that tracked
down the report done for the Office of Planning Policy and Analysis
HARRIS STUDY (1969)
The Louis Harris study was of 898 returned volunteers from 1962-66 It
was too early to report their future education or professional
development, though a list of prominent RPCVs includes many who worked
for the Peace Corps in the 1960s.
The Harris study was released, with the New York Times reporting on it
April 3, 1970 under the headline, "Less Zeal Found for Peace Corps.
Survey for Agency Reports Disaffection of Volunteers." The same story
reported that the Senate Foreign Relations Committtee had voted to cut
appropriations by 10% the day the report was released.
The 1969 study done of the first groups of volunteers found that:
* 90% recommended it to other college graduates
* 92% said it was "very valuable" to them
* 40% said it was "very valuable" to the United States
* 46% said it was "very valuable" to the host country, with 5% saying
their work did NOT contribute to the development of their host
More than half reported problems in re-adjusting to life in the U.S.
WINSLOW STUDY (1977)
The Winslow/1977 survey was done with 201 RPCVs who had completed
service in 1974 or 1975.
I've found no direct reports of the Winslow/1977 or 1996 surveys in
print or online. There are some references to the 1996 survey in
"Self Efficacy and Cultural Awareness: A Study of Returned Peace Corps
Teachers" (Cross, April 16, 1998)
THE 1996 STUDY
The Office of Planning, Policy and Analysis did this study in early
1996, with RPCV Juanita Graul, Jamaica (1992-94) designing it.
It surveyed 2,500 RPCVs in early 1996 and had a 50% response rate. It
was done of volunteers who'd served more than a year (N = 94,586)
between 1961 and 1993.
By decade the respondents were:
In this survey only 3% were older than 50 at entry into the Peace
Corps and 90% were in the 18-29 age range. Education at entry
included 78% with a bachelors degree and another 8% with "some
college." The survey group had 10% who entered the Peace Corps with a
masters degree and 2% with an LL.B, J.D. or Ph.D.
As previously mentioned, the percentage of volunteers with work
experience has been increasing, reflected in the average ages. The
percentage of volunteers in the 18-29 age range has declined
consistently from 96% in the 1960's to 93% in the 1970s to 79% by the
early 1990s. And the number of volunteers in the 30-39 age range has
risen from 3% in the 1960s (and only 2% in the 1970s) to 11% by the
The survey asked:
Why they joined the Peace Corps?
75% said they wanted to experience a different culture
74% said it was for travel and adventure
73% said they wanted to help others
Did it succeed?
All survey measures said that at least 91% said yes. In fact 94% said
they would still make the same decision to join the Peace Corps and
70% felt that it had a positive impact on their careers. Only 1% said
that they wouldn't join the Peace Corps again, if faced with the same
decision. The returned volunteers felt that as a result of their
experience they were better informed and had a broader awareness of
cultural differences and world issues than their contemporaries.
56% have been involved in some post-Peace Corps activity, from
recruiting to programs with local RPCV organizations or the National
Peace Corps Association.
IMPACT ON CAREER
Measures of the impact of volunteering on career had the following
results, increasing slightly on impact over the decades:
Been of great help: 31%
Been of some help: 39%
Not much difference: 22%
Slowed you down: 3%
Been of great help: 27%
Been of some help: 39%
Not much difference: 23%
Slowed you down: 6%
Been of great help: 38%
Been of some help: 35%
Not much difference: 15%
Slowed you down: 4%
Been of great help: 35%
Been of some help: 40%
Not much difference: 13%
Slowed you down: 3%
More than half of the RPCVs had earned another degree since returning
(54%), with another 10% reporting that they were working on a degree.
"The longer the time since their Peace Corps service ended, the more
apt respondents were to have earned another degree," says the report.
Overall, here were the numbers -- with the 1960s volunteers being the
most-likely to have PhDs or JDs, followed by the 1970 group, then
followed by the 1980 group, etc:
Degree (All RPCVs surveyed)
LL.B or JD: 3%
Some 3% of these had participated in a Peace Corps Fellows program, a
program that allows returned volunteers to earn a Master's degree at
MEASURING PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS
Beyond the measures of further degrees, how can you judge what
happened to former volunteers? The 1996 survey did it by looking at
where people were working -- and at income levels. The decade in
which people were volunteers
had a strong influence on whether or not they were self-employed and
on level of income, with a 1960s volunteer being 13 times as likely to
be making over $100,000 per year as a volunteer from after 1980. Note
that the self-employment information correlates with studies of
entrepreneurs: the successful ones tend to be older, have worked for
other businesses and even have started several businesses.
The 1980s and 1990s volunteers were also 50% more likely to be working
for a non-profit organization than their predecessors.
Here are are the income splits:
Under $20K: 9%
Over $100K: 13%
No response: 7%
Under $20K: 13%
Over $100K: 8%
No response: 6%
Under $20K: 25%
Over $100K: 1%
No response: 4%
Under $20K: 36%
Over $100K: 1%
No response: 6%
Two other things stand out in this survey: the extent to which former
volunteers travel and their use of local languages. Some of us used
one of the top five world languages, which many volunteers used a
regional language (such as KiKongo, Lingala, Tshiluba or Swahili in
the Congo) and some learned a tribal language. Overall, 63% used the
language "occasionally" or "frequently", a number that's been pretty
consistent across the decades.
Also, more than 86% of the RPCVs have traveled abroad again, with more
than half (54%) visiting four or more countries. This number also
increases with time, as 72% of the 1960s volunteers have visited four
or more countries.
One final note about well-known former volunteers: we've had a couple
of U.S. senators but no presidents. However, the mother of James Earl
Carter, 39th President of the United States, was a volunteer in India.
Lillian Carter served there 1974-1976, returning just as her son took
twotmich-ga rated this answer ***** : and gave an additional tip of: $15.00
"Unbelievably thorough! I never could have gotten all of that
information myself. Your answer will help point me in the right
direction. It wad well worth the bidding price (even thought I was
slightly hesitant at first). I will use google answers again next
time I have a need-to-know doozie."