Friday, September 14th, 2012
Last November, we covered a report by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC)–whose annual national conference, by the way, is today and can be live streamed beginning at 1:00 PM EST here–that made the case that a community’s level of civic engagement was related to its economic success.
On Wednesday, NCoC released a follow up to that report: “Civic Health and Unemployment II: The Case Builds.” Written by CIRCLE’s Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg and Peter Levine, the new report studied the relationship between civic health and unemployment “in all 50 states, 942 metro areas, and more than 3,100 counties. [The authors] added new statistical controls (alternative explanations of unemployment change) to the model, analyzed a Census Current Population survey that follows individuals over time, and incorporated the results of the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community Survey, which investigated a wider range of opinions and attitudes than are measured in federal surveys.”
CIRCLE explains the results:
The basic pattern found in the 2011 report held up: communities with more civic engagement in 2006 suffered less from unemployment in the Great Recession, even when other possible explanations are factored in.
The new analysis also directed attention to two particular aspects of civic engagement: the role of nonprofit organizations and the effects of social cohesion.
Nonprofits play important economic roles in communities:
A closer look revealed that not all nonprofits mattered equally. The ones that provided concrete opportunities to local members or clients had the biggest impact on employment rates. For example, fraternal organizations and unions that convene their members for local meetings, sports organizations that hold athletics events, and service-providers that directly assist local people all seemed to help, whereas “mailing-list” organizations whose members just contribute checks did not seem to matter for unemployment.
The second aspect of civic engagement that affects employment is “social cohesion.” We analyzed several surveys for this project, each with somewhat different measures. Thus the precise components of social cohesion varied, but the general definition was the degree to which residents socialize, communicate, and collaborate with one another. Some examples of the impact of social cohesion:
Read the report–including some suggested interpretations of why the authors think strong civic engagement matters to a healthy economy–here.