People in Minneapolis-St. Paul are more likely to volunteer in their community than people in any other metropolitan area, according to...

People in Minneapolis-St. Paul are more likely to volunteer in their community than people in any other metropolitan area, according to a government study being released today.

The cities in Minnesota, where more than four in 10 adults volunteered, were followed in the rankings by Salt Lake City, with 38.4 percent of adults volunteering; Austin, Texas, 38.1 percent; Omaha, Neb., 37.8 percent; and Seattle, 36.3 percent.

It’s not that people in those cities are necessarily kinder or gentler. They just have the right circumstances for volunteering: They feel connected to their communities, have more education, own their own homes, spend less time commuting and have more opportunities to give back, says the report by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The agency used Census Bureau data to determine the share of people age 16 and older who had volunteered their time in the previous year. The study provides three-year averages, for 2004 through 2006, for the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

Seventy percent of Minneapolis-area families own their own homes. It had the highest overall volunteer rate at 40.5 percent, the report says. By contrast, Honolulu, where only 49 percent own homes, ranked 42nd with a 23.3 percent rate of volunteering.

Minneapolis also has a history of civic engagement, said Jeremy Hanson, spokesman for Mayor R.T. Rybak. “Everyone is connected to an arts or nonprofit cause that they care about, so they roll up their sleeves and get to work.”

In cities where people spend a lot of time commuting or live in apartments, by contrast, they tend to feel less connected to their communities so they don’t volunteer as much. Las Vegas had the lowest volunteer rate, 14.4 percent. It was joined at the bottom by Miami, 16.1 percent; New York, 18.7 percent; Virginia Beach, Va., 19.3 percent; and Riverside, Calif., 20.6 percent.

Nationally, 26.7 percent of adults in 2006 said they had volunteered in the previous year. That compares with 28.8 percent in 2005 and 20.4 percent in 1989.

While the agency has done other reports on volunteer rates, this is the first time it has ranked cities, said Robert Grimm, director of research and policy development.

“We hope that just as metro areas care about their crime rates, they’ll see levels of volunteering as another important community benchmark,” he said.