Today, over 14 million Americans (largely Millennials) are actively seeking jobs with no promise in sight. They are frustrated, run down, and just plain tired. While Congress debates the President’s recently proposed jobs plan, the American people are hoping that both political parties can find a way to work together to turn our struggling economy around. While the actions in Washington are important, we cannot afford to just sit around and wait. How do we help break this vicious cycle and restore dignity and opportunity? The answer may not be further than your neighbor’s door.
A new report released last Friday by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) finds that states with higher levels of civic engagement are more resilient in an economic downturn. The report identifies five measures of civic engagement, which appear to protect against unemployment and contribute to overall economic resilience. Of these civic health indicators, working with neighbors was the most important factor in predicting economic resilience, as an increase of one percent in neighbors working together to solve community problems was associated with a decrease of .256 percent in the unemployment rate.
Public meeting attendance emerged as the second most important factor, followed by volunteering and registering to vote. The report also offers observations about why this relationship may exist, such as the role that participation in civil society plays in developing the skills, confidence and habits to help make individuals employable and strengthen the networks that help them find jobs, along with the importance of an engaged community to yield an effective governance structure to invest in economic growth.
These new findings, while not definitive, prompt necessary dialogue about the critical urgency for strengthened civic health in our communities. For the Millennial generation in particular, the link between civic and economic health couldn’t be more important. We know how hard we have been hit by the economic crisis, and that our generation will shape the workforce and economy’s vitality for decades to come. We also know that we are volunteering at higher rates than any previous generation did at our age, and that we are engaged with one another in new and constantly evolving ways online. This new research helps clarify how critical this engagement is—getting involved, attending a neighborhood meeting, registering to vote, or simply discussing politics is not just a good thing to do. It is essential to unlocking our own, our community’s and our nation’s potential to thrive.
To read the report in full, check out www.ncoc.net/unemployment. Please join us to continue the dialogue about “21st Century Expressions of America’s Social Compact” at the 66th Annual National Conference on Citizenship to be held in Phoenix, Arizona on September 22-23rd. Live stream of the conference can be viewed at http://www.ncoc.net/live and questions will be taken via Twitter (@NCoC or #NCoC).
David B. Smith is the Founder of Mobilize.org and Executive Director of the Congressionally chartered National Conference on Citizenship, a dynamic, nonpartisan nonprofit that explores the power citizens have to make a difference in how their communities and country thrive.