February 6, 2013 - “Millennials” Play a Central Role in our Nation’s Civic Health, but Who are They?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 6, 2013
CONTACT:  Brad Luna, Luna Media Group
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“Millennials” Play a Central Role in our Nation’s Civic Health, but Who are They?

Major New Study Provides In-Depth Insight on Diverse Engagement of a Generation

Washington, DC-- The Millennials Civic Health Index, released today by four of the top civic organizations in the country, paints a comprehensive picture of young Americans 18 to 29.  The study challenges commonly held beliefs about a generation of young Americans whose votes played a critical role in November’s presidential election. The report highlights the diverse ways in which Millennials are taking action in their communities beyond the voting booth, online and offline, across different regions of the United States.  

The report, produced by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, and Mobilize.org, illustrates:

  • this generation of Americans represents a potent civic and political force - comprising a national voting bloc of 21.3% of eligible voters who are playing a critical role in our democracy and driving community action nationwide;
  • education is strongly connected to civic engagement—some indicators show a college graduate is four or five times more likely to engage as someone without a high school diploma;
  • Millennials are hard hit by the economic crisis—62.9% are currently working, of which 31.2% work on a part-time basis—with potential implications for civic engagement;
  • some surprising trends--while engagement typically increases with age, 22-25 year olds have lower levels of social cohesion and volunteerism than older or younger peers. And, while education predicts most forms of engagement, young people without a college education are more likely to help their neighbors on a regular basis.

The full study -- with numerous additional findings such as the civic consequences of education; ways, types and rates of civic engagement; beliefs and opinions about pressing issues and elected leaders -- can all be found here.

CIRCLE lead researcher Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, who led the study’s quantitative analysis, said, “this groundbreaking research underscores, in red ink, that young Americans play too critical of a role in our democracy to simply be mischaracterized and dismissed as “lazy”, “apathetic” and “entitled”.  It’s democratic malpractice for us to not better understand a generation of Americans with such a decisive role in the health of our nation and the future of our democracy.”

The study, authored by representatives from leading centers in the study of civic life and young Americans, draws on rigorous data, including civic indicators collected through a partnership between NCoC, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the US Census Bureau. “Millennials are a critical part of America’s civic foundation,” said Ilir Zherka, NCoC’s Executive Director. “This report shines a light on the ways in which Millennials are already actively engaged in our communities, and the areas where we need to continue working to increase their civic engagement.”  

The study also incorporates a rich array of data including Harvard’s Institute of Politics’ twelve-year polling project on Millennials’ political views, and input from young leaders convened by Mobilize.org. The data was analyzed by CIRCLE’s team of researchers who also contributed scholarly expertise on youth engagement.

“After studying the political and civic beliefs of America’s young adults for twelve years, we know they care about their communities – and their country,” said Harvard’s Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson.  “Working to better understand and engage with 18-29 year-olds – the Millennial generation – is not only critical to ensuring a healthy democracy and citizenry, but also imperative for today’s political campaigns looking to appeal to this key demographic.”

“This report shows that when communities are open to engaging Millennials in an authentic way, they become places in which people want to work and live,” said Mobilize.org Board Chair, Kari Saratovsky. “Authentic programs and initiatives that cultivate youth ownership in local communities are powerful reminders of the work that can and has been done to strengthen our nation's civic health.”

In response to the growing need for Millennial leadership development, Mobilize.org has introduced two new programs, Mobilizer Academy and Speakers Bureau, that focus on elevating Millennial best practices for improving communities, empowering young leaders and their peers, addressing social problems and providing a more sustainable path for our collective future. The two programs will commence at Mobilize.org's Millennial Leaders Seminar February 8-10, 2013 in New York City.

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At the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), we believe everyone has the power to make a difference in how their community and country thrive. We are a dynamic, non-partisan nonprofit working at the forefront of our nation’s civic life. We continuously explore what shapes today’s citizenry, define the evolving role of the individual in our democracy, and uncover ways to motivate greater participation. Through our events, research, and reports, NCoC expands our nation’s contemporary understanding of what it means to be a citizen. We seek new ideas and approaches for creating greater civic health and vitality throughout the United States. More information is available at www.NCoC.net.

CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) conducts research on civic education in schools, colleges, and community settings and on young Americans’ voting and political participation, service, activism, media use, and other forms of civic engagement. CIRCLE is based at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University. A national leader in civic education and research, Tisch College is setting a standard for higher education’s role in civic engagement.

Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, was established in 1966 as a memorial to President Kennedy.  The IOP’s mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis to inspire them to consider careers in politics and public service.  The Institute strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs.  More information is available online at www.iop.harvard.edu.    

Mobilize.org empowers and invests in Millennials to create and implement soluations to social problems. Utilizing technology and social networking to connect Millennials on and offline, Mobilize.org convenes Millennials from around the country to discuss issues impacting the Millennial Generation and to develop sustainable solutions to address them. For more information, visit www.mobilize.org.