Report shows high number of boomers and older adults are civically engaged
Between 2008 and 2010, a majority of Americans were civically active in a variety of ways, working with others to improve their communities, according to the 2011 Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation research recently released by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC). With nearly nine in 10 American households sitting down to dinner together frequently, more than half discussing politics at least a few times a month, and a third actively participating in groups or organizations, civic life in America continues to be dynamic.
In partnership with CNCS and NCoC, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau collect most of the data for Civic Life in America through supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS Civic Engagement Supplement is designed to gauge the health of America’s communities by measuring how often residents engage in a variety of civic activities. The survey also helps civic leaders identify ways to strengthen the participation of citizens in making a positive impact in their communities.
A majority of Americans participated in many of the activities contained in three of the five civic engagement categories measured in the report: political action, connecting to information/current events, and social connectedness. More than a third were active across several of the activities in the remaining two categories: service and volunteering and participating in an organized group.
“Today our nation faces a number of tough challenges,” said Robert Velasco II, CNCS’ acting CEO. “The Civic Life in America research demonstrates that Americans across the country and at all stages of their lives continue to stand up to help solve problems in their own communities, from providing job training to veterans and tutoring at-risk students to helping neighbors recover from disasters.”
The research suggests that civic engagement is a reinforcing cycle. Citizens who participate in one area of civic engagement, like volunteering, are more likely to get involved in groups, contact public officials, or work with neighbors. In addition, the results show evidence similar to what researchers see across the “volunteer lifecycle”—the arc of civic involvement that tends to increase as citizens feel a deeper connection to their communities through personal networks, their workplace, and their children’s schools.
Other key findings include:
Americans remain civically engaged long into their lives in a pivotal number of ways between 2008 and 2010.
- Older Adults (age 65 and older) ranked #1 in voting (58.9%), church or religious involvement (22.7%), service or civic group participation (10.4%), and doing favors for neighbors frequently (20.1%).
- Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) ranked #1 in discussing politics frequently (38.5%), volunteering (29.3%), and serving as a group officer or committee member (12.5%).
- Generation X (born 1965-1981) ranked #1 in the category of frequently eating dinner with household members (90.9%), participation in school groups (19.5%), and participation in sports or recreation groups (13.6%).
In addition, the research also provides data on civic participation on the national level, all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and 51 of the largest metro areas in the U.S. The rankings of the cities and states were based on five major categories: political action; connecting to information/current events; social connectedness; service; and participating in a group.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.