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December 16, 2009

the Census to measure civic engagement

The United States Census is about to begin measuring civic health in its annual Current Population Supplement. Census had already measured voting and volunteering; the additional measures will be added because of a provision in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009 that requires a partnership between Census, the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, and the National Conference on Citizenship to assess the nation's civic health. Because of the huge size of the Census surveys, we will be able to see levels of civic participation by state, by large city, and by demographic group, and investigate the relationships between things like education, health, and military service and civic participation.

This effort has been a goal of mine for more than a decade. In the late nineties, when I was Deputy Director of the National Commission on Civic Renewal, my job was to develop the Index of National Civic Health (INCH), which was comprised of about 40 indicators drawn from various public surveys. (It showed deep decline since the 1970s). In the current decade, the National Conference on Citizenship developed a similar index and began fielding an annual survey to collect the data. CIRCLE and I were deeply involved in their survey design and analysis. Various people involved in that effort were then able to get the index written into federal law and selected questions included on the annual Census surveys.

For now (according to federal websites), the items will be:

(These are not the actual questions, which are longer and more explanatory. These are just my headlines for the questions.)

December 16, 2009 4:29 PM | category: none



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