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October 28, 2010

civic health in the states

The National Conference on Citizenship has partnerships with 17 states or large cities that are releasing glossy, detailed reports on their own communities' "civic health." My organization, CIRCLE (with funding from the federal Corporation for National and Community Service) provided each state's or city's team with a long background memo composed of statistics and trends that we drew, in large part, from the Census annual surveys of civic engagement. Although we helped with data, the local teams decided what to say. Their findings are interesting.

For example, Arizona has strikingly low levels of "civic engagement" as typically defined (voting, volunteering, membership in groups). Nevertheless, young Arizonans hold regular political discussions: 40.9% say they talk about politics at least several times per week, more than older people in their state and youth in other states. Maybe controversial issues such as immigration are stirring up discussion there.

The Missouri team emphasized the traditional blue-collar base of civic engagement in their state and how that is fraying in the current economy.

North Carolina's report states rather boldly, "The state’s civil society--the voluntary and social organizations that make our communities work--is led by a small and homogeneous group of older, college-educated, mostly white residents who are involved in religious organizations."

Civic engagement is important, but every state has a different civic culture. These reports (and many more to come) begin to diagnose the problems, identify opportunities, and propose solutions appropriate to each place.

October 28, 2010 10:00 AM | category: none



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