CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

E-Update August 2012

August 27th, 2012
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“That’s Not Democracy.”
How Out-of-School Youth Engage in Civic Life and What Stands In Their Way

CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) released a major new study last week, “That’s Not Democracy” How Out-of-School Youth Engage in Civic Life and What Stands in Their Way.

The new report uses survey data to show that civic engagement is highly unequal among young Americans, a particular concern since these gaps may sustain over time. The primary divisions are between young people who have attended college and “non-college youth”: those who dropped out of high school or did not continue their educations beyond high school (about 42 percent of the resident youth population in 2012). For instance, young adults with college experience are about twice as likely to vote and to volunteer. But standardized survey questions may not capture the opinions of youth and the ways they engage in their communities, as CIRCLE found in conducting this research.

They conducted focus groups with “non-college youth” to explore why they do or do not participate. Compared to the national population of non-college youth, participants in their study were much more likely to be urban and African American.

Participants were highly aware of social and political issues, concerned about them, and likely to discuss them critically in their own social networks, even if they did not see how they personally could address such issues. Many participants believed they had skills to make a difference in their communities, but they lacked opportunities to use those skills. They often reported helping individuals, and they discussed social issues in their own networks, but generally they did not connect these activities to making systemic or society-wide changes.

Overall, the study finds that non-college young people lack organized and institutional opportunities to address large-scale social issues.

Join CIRCLE TODAY for a Twitter Chat about How to Engage Youth in Communities

CIRCLE will be hosting a Twitter chat about this topic TODAY –  Monday, August 27th at 3pm EDT, using the hashtag #YouthTruth.

Learn more about CIRCLE’s recommendations for various stakeholders based off this research, ask questions, and talk about what the implications are of this research.

CIRCLE is running a #YouthTruth campaign to counter myths about young Americans, such as the widespread beliefs that youth are mostly college students or that they have uniform experiences and attitudes as a generation.

© 2010 CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)

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