An Inequitable Invitation to Citizenship
While 62% of college-bound youth voted in the 2008 presidential election, only 32% of those not college-bound turned out to vote. The 2008 election, and other similar occurrences, illustrated that voting, volunteering, and other forms of civic engagement are being driven disproportionately by youth that are college bound or already enrolled. Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) recently released its report, “An Inequitable Invitation to Citizenship: Non- College-Bound Youth and Civic Engagement,” which examines this gap in public and civic involvement between college-bound youth and non-college-bound youth.
There has been considerable effort to engage college-bound students in public life, but much less attention has been paid to the 50% of youth that are not on the secondary education track. Research shows that there is an unequal distribution of educational, political, and civic resources and opportunities for these individuals. Get-out-the vote campaigns, and community service and volunteering efforts are focused primarily on college campuses, recruiting only those that are educated. Non-college bound youth are expected to become
enthusiastic citizens, yet they are given few opportunities to participate in civic and political life.
It is necessary to engage this sector of the population as a truly representative democracy necessitates the participation of all its citizens. Without the participation of non-college bound youth, their voices are likely not being represented, and their potential contributions to society are not being utilized. Additionally, the report found that engaging non-college bound youth in political and civic life brought about positive effects in other areas.
The authors provide ideas not only for funders, but for federal and state governments, schools and school systems, higher education, the military, political/advocacy organizations, community institutions, and businesses. The recommendations that the authors have concluded the paper with provide evidence of how much there is to do if we are to bring the voices and perspectives of NCBY into our civic, public and political life.
What actions or incentives can be enacted to engage this largely untapped sector of the population? Can current methods of encouraging engagement, such as those used on college campuses, be applied to non-college- bound youth, or is it necessary to create a new means to engage these youth?