Some people find their identity in a “tribe”—those they like, who are like them, whom they hang out with. Some groups we join because of shared views or common interests, belonging by choice. One group we don’t get to choose membership in, like the family we are born into, is our generation. We get lumped together with all-comers who happen to be born within a given 20-year span of time. Social observers assign labels like baby-boomers or Generation X and try to identify the characteristics of each.
These labels provide a convenient handle for the study of trends. In this vein, several new reports examine civic engagement among the Millennial generation (sometimes called Generation Y), the cohort who came of age at the turn of and into the 21st century. This group makes up 21.3 percent of the voting-age population. Although civic engagement includes voting, it is not primarily about electoral politics. It encompasses volunteering, advocating for a cause, expressing opinions on issues online, participating in local organizations or neighborhood associations, or just helping a neighbor.
The study Millennials Civic Health Index surveyed 18-to-29-year-olds in 2012. It shows that the level of civic involvement steadily increased as this generation has grown older (though it lags at ages 22–25). One interesting finding is that although college grads have a much higher level of civic engagement than those without high school diplomas, young people without a college education are more likely to assist their neighbors on a regular basis. Another report on civic engagement notes that the national volunteer rate reached a five-year high in 2012. But one factor undercutting civic engagement today is that young people may feel they have been “set up to fail,” as one observer puts it. “In the Obama era, we talk about social change in such grandiose terms that anything after is bound to feel insignificant in comparison.”
Image credit: © mangostock/Fotolia
- “Millennials” Play a Central Role in Our Nation’s Civic Health, but Who Are They?
This article explores civic engagement among the Millennial generation; includes link to “Millennials Civic Health Index” (pdf).
(Source: National Conference on Citizenship, February 6, 2013)
- Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2012 by the Numbers
This article dissects the results of a recent NCoC survey on volunteering and civic engagement among Americans.
(Source: National Conference on Citizenship, January 9, 2013)
- Volunteering and Civic Life in America
This website displays data on volunteering and civic life through a unique interactive map. Explore data from the 50 states and 51 cities across the United States.
(Source: volunteeringinamerica.gov; accessed February 28, 2013)
- A Civics Lesson for 20-somethings
This opinion piece examines why members of the Millennial generation are—or are not—engaged in their communities and in civic life.
(Source: Christian Science Monitor, February 19, 2013)