Civic Life in America Fact Sheet

Civic Life in America - Fact Sheet

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, signed by President Obama in April 2009, authorized the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship to produce the Civic Health Assessment (known as Civic Life in America), an annual report detailing the many ways people get involved in communities across the country and work to make a difference. Data for the U.S., regions, state, and city (metropolitan area) level were collected mostly through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. With this rich set of data, leaders and residents are able to identify opportunities to increase and sustain diverse and new types of engagement and build tools and resources to meet community needs. Today our nation faces a number of daunting challenges, including economic recovery, under-performing schools, and unexpected needs arising out of disasters. It is precisely because of the magnitude and multitude of these and other complex challenges that we must reconfigure the way we think and talk about engaging Americans in addressing them. This fact sheet provides an overview of key national findings. Additional statistics and analysis, as well as tools and resources to help communities stimulate greater civic engagement, can be found online at http://www.serve.gov/civic.

Between 2007 and 2009, 62 million americans volunteered through an organization. 18.6 million Americans worked with neighbors to fix a community problem. 125 million Americans exchanged favors with neighbors at least once a month.

DEFINING CIVIC LIFE

The term "civic life," which can be used interchangeably with "civic engagement," can describe a diverse set of activities. The concept generally includes activities that build on the collective resources, skills, expertise, and knowledge of citizens to improve the quality of life in communities.1 While many varieties of civic participation could be classified as civic engagement, this fact sheet focuses on activities that can be classified into five main categories: service, social connectedness, participating in a group, connecting to information and events, and political action.

FINDINGS

Download the PDF table for a full list of national results.

  • Data suggest that Americans are coming together to overcome challenges. They are tilting towards the issues and not running away from them.
    • Between 2007 and 2009, about 62 million Americans volunteered through an organization each year.
    • Each year on average from 2008-2009, almost 125 million Americans exchanged favors with their neighbors at least once a month.
  • Although volunteering and voting are two of the most familiar forms of civic engagement, there are many other ways to get involved.
    • Millions of Americans participate in "neighborhood engagement" or informal service activities by working with neighbors to fix a community problem. Informal activities such as neighborhood engagement are important engines for local civic life, since they are often organized by neighborhood residents themselves, without the help of an organization or institution.
  • People who participate in one civic activity are more likely to be involved in others.
    • People who serve by volunteering, by working directly with their neighbors to fix community problems, or by attending public meetings where community issues are discussed, are also all more likely to participate in other elements of civic life.
    • People who connect socially by eating dinner with others in their household, keeping in touch online, talking with their neighbors, or trading favors with their neighbors are all more likely to be engaged in service, political action, groups, and following current events in some way.
  • Use of the internet is positively related to, and can be a real boon to, our civic engagement.
    • People who have access to the internet in their homes and people who use the internet wherever they have opportunity are more likely to get involved in almost every type of activity studied in the assessment.
  • Veterans are generally more involved in their communities than non-veterans.
    • Veterans are more likely to work with their neighbors to fix community problems (10.5% vs. 7.8%), to exchange favors with their neighbors (63.4% vs. 56.9%), and to have voted in the 2008 election (70.9% vs. 56.8%).

METHODOLOGY

Most of the statistics reported in Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation come from the Current Population Survey's (CPS) Civic Engagement Supplement, which has been conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics each November since 2008. Others come from the Voting Supplement to the CPS, administered in November in evennumbered years; the Volunteer Supplement to the CPS, administered every September since 2002; and the October 2007 Computer Use Supplement to the CPS. Most supplements have a response rate of about 100,000 respondents. Some voting data (election returns) also come from Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (http://www.uselectionatlas.org/). For more information, see civic.serve.gov.

CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE

The Corporation for National and Community Service 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. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.

NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CITIZENSHIP

Founded in 1946 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1953, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is a leader in strengthening our nation's civic life. In partnership with over 250 organizations, NCoC tracks, measures, and promotes civic participation. Through this work, NCoC helps define modern citizenship in America. More information can be found at NCoC.net.

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