Popular conception, as well as most survey data, usually holds that non-college youth are less likely to be engaged in their communities than their non-college counterparts. But a new report from The Center For Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) finds that this is not quite true. Non-college youth might be less likely to identify with words like “civic engagement” or “volunteering” on a survey, but they actually do frequently engage in a variety of ‘helping’ behaviors in their community. In addition, the study found that many youth are disengaged because they haven’t been asked to participate or don’t believe they can make a difference, not because they don’t care.
Check out the details after the jump!
CIRCLE interviewed 121 non-college youth in 20 focus groups in 4 cities between fall and June. Compared to the national population of non-college youth, participants in the study were much more likely to be urban and African American. Here are some of their findings:
- Most participants saw concrete barriers to civic engagement. For example, they perceived that institutions did not want their engagement, that their communities provided few positive role models and that they lacked the money and connections to contribute.
- Many participants believed they had skills to make a difference in their communities, but they lacked opportunities to use those skills.
- Nevertheless, many participants served or helped other individuals in their own families and neighborhoods, although they did not think of these forms of helping behavior when asked about community-level change.
- 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.
- A small minority of participants had been recruited into civic organizations, and they generally expressed strong support for these groups. Most other focus group members believed that such institutions were missing in their communities and reported never having been asked to participate.
CIRCLE will be hosting a live twitter chat today at 3pm est to further discuss their findings. Join in with the hashtag #YouthTruth!