“Millennials” Play a Central Role in our Nation’s Civic Health, but Who are They?

“Millennials” Play a Central Role in our Nation’s Civic Health, but Who are They?
CIRCLE, Harvard University Institute of Politics, Mobilize.org, The National Conference on Citizenship
February 27, 2013
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 Major New Study Provides In-Depth Insight on Diverse Engagement of a Generation

The Millennials Civic Health Index, released in February 2013 by four of the top civic organizations in the country, paints a comprehensive picture of young Americans 18 to 29.  The study challenges commonly held beliefs about a generation of young Americans whose votes played a critical role in November’s presidential election. The report highlights the diverse ways in which Millennials are taking action in their communities beyond the voting booth, online and offline, across different regions of the United States.

The report, produced by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, and Mobilize.org, illustrates:

  • this generation of Americans represents a potent civic and political force - comprising a national voting bloc of 21.3% of eligible voters who are playing a critical role in our democracy and driving community action nationwide;
  • education is strongly connected to civic engagement—some indicators show a college graduate is four or five times more likely to engage than someone without a high school diploma;
  • Millennials are hard hit by the economic crisis—62.9 percent are currently working, of which 31.2 percent work on a part-time basis—with potential implications for civic engagement;
  • some surprising trends–while engagement typically increases with age, 22-25 year olds have lower levels of social cohesion and volunteerism than older or younger peers. And, while education predicts most forms of engagement, young people without a college education are more likely to help their neighbors on a regular basis.

CIRCLE lead researcher Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, who led the study’s quantitative analysis, said, “this groundbreaking research underscores, in red ink, that young Americans play too critical of a role in our democracy to simply be mischaracterized and dismissed as “lazy”, “apathetic” and “entitled”.  It’s democratic malpractice for us to not better understand a generation of Americans with such a decisive role in the health of our nation and the future of our democracy.”

The study, authored by representatives from leading centers in the study of civic life and young Americans, draws on rigorous data, including civic indicators collected through a partnership between NCoC, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the US Census Bureau. “Millennials are a critical part of America’s civic foundation,” said Ilir Zherka, NCoC’s Executive Director. “This report shines a light on the ways in which Millennials are already actively engaged in our communities, and the areas where we need to continue working to increase their civic engagement.”

The study also incorporates a rich array of data including Harvard’s Institute of Politics’ twelve-year polling project on Millennials’ political views, and input from young leaders convened by Mobilize.org. The data was analyzed by CIRCLE’s team of researchers who also contributed scholarly expertise on youth engagement.

“After studying the political and civic beliefs of America’s young adults for twelve years, we know they care about their communities – and their country,” said Harvard’s Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson.  “Working to better understand and engage with 18-29 year-olds – the Millennial generation – is not only critical to ensuring a healthy democracy and citizenry, but also imperative for today’s political campaigns looking to appeal to this key demographic.”

“This report shows that when communities are open to engaging Millennials in an authentic way, they become places in which people want to work and live,” said Mobilize.org Board Chair, Kari Saratovsky. “Authentic programs and initiatives that cultivate youth ownership in local communities are powerful reminders of the work that can and has been done to strengthen our nation’s civic health.”

Watch videos discussing the research:



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