Civic health in U.S. ‘dynamic’

Civic life
Civic life

Americans continue to play an active role in civic life and to work with others to improve their communities, a new report says.

Between 2008 and 2010, 62.7 million Americans, or 26.5 percent, volunteered with an organization, while 20 million, or 8.4 percent, worked with neighbors to fix a community problem, according to the 2011 Civic Life in America report by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship.

“Americans across the country and at all stages of their lives continue to stand up to help solve problems in their own communities,” Robert Velasco II, action CEO at the Corporation for National and Community Services, says in a statement.

The report, based mainly on data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census bureau through supplements to the Current Population Survey, measures five “engagement” categories, including service; social connectedness; participating in groups; connecting to information and events; and political action.

The report found civic engagement is a “reinforcing cycle,” with people involved in one area of engagement more likely to be involved in others.

Those who are more socially connected also are more likely to engage in service activities such as volunteering or working with neighbors to fix community problems, the report found, and to belong to groups or associations, regardless of the type of group.

It also found a strong association between service on the one hand and political action and group involvement on the other.

Most Americans were active in many activities that involve political action, connecting to information and current events, and social connectedness, while over a third participated in at least one group, and over a fourth volunteered with an organization.

Just over a third of Americans were members of a group or organization, for example, and 17.8 percent belonged to a religious institution or organization, with 35.8 percent of people in the suburbs and 34.7 percent of people in rural participating in groups, compared to 31.6 percent of people in urban areas.

Thirty-six percent of Americans did favors for neighbors at least a few times a month, and 15.8 percent did so frequently.

Overall civic engagement increases with age and currently is highest among Baby Boomers, or those born from 1946 through 1964, with adults ages 65 and older representing the second-most-civically-engaged demographic group in the U.S.

A higher percentage of those older adults vote, donate, and participate in service or civic groups than any other demographic group.

Generation X, or those born from 1965 through 1981, is heavily involve in family life, participating in school groups, sports, and recreation activities, and having dinner with household members, more frequently than any other generation.

Between 2008 and 2010, on average, over 70 percent of Americans discussed politics at least once a month, and 34.8 percent did so from a few times a week to nearly every day.

Nearly half of adults donated money, assets or property with a combined value of over $25 to charitable or religious organizations.

Nearly nine in 10 American households sit down to dinner together frequently, over half discuss politics at least a few times a month, and a third actively participate in groups or organizations, the report says.

The report says the Internet continues to grow as an integral part of daily civic life, with Millennials, or those born in 1982 or after, leading the way, with Generation X and Boomers close behind.

In 2010, over two-thirds of Americans talked with friends and family over the Internet.

Over eight in 10 Millennials used the Internet at least occasionally for that purpose, as did over three in four Gen Xers and two in three Boomers.

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