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CSSP Releases Report on Youth Civic Engagement

Strategies can lead to reduced risky behavior, increased success in school and greater civic participation later in life

Washington, D.C. (November 15, 2011) – The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), along with Rock the Vote, has released a new report and interactive section offering policymakers the research and evidence needed to craft policies that can make a real difference for 16-24 year olds.

Unfortunately, many young Americans are left out of the political process because of outdated and restrictive voter registration practices and barriers encountered when trying to cast a ballot, said Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote.

“These problems are escalating in states where politicians are actively making it harder to participate,” Smith said. “All of this is being done at a time when young voter participation is on the rise, something we should be encouraging, not trying to stop.”

The new report addresses what state policymakers can do to change the tide, while focusing on what the results - or consequences - are on the individual and on society if young people continue to be left out of the process.

“While we’re just one year out from the 2012 elections, there is still plenty of time for state policymakers to promote and enact policies that can make a monumental long-term difference,” said Arlene Lee, associate director of CSSP’s public policy work.

Increasing participation by this demographic does more than just change voter turnout, it also has a significant impact on the future of this country and on the future of our kids, she added.   

“The civic engagement of young adults - whether in the form of joining community groups, volunteering to help neighbors or leading grassroots efforts to gain civil rights – is also important to the health and performance of democracy,” said Constance Flanagan, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “When younger Americans have a voice in community affairs, they can contribute their insights to public debates and their ener­gies to addressing public problems.

Research by Flanagan helps guide the specific strategies offered, that deal with presenting young people these opportunities whether through voting, working in community-based organi­zations to address local problems or volun­teering time or money to a social cause. That’s because civic activities raise issues involving connection to others, public goods and values, and the col­lective nature of solving problems. Engaging with fellow members of a community-based group also helps youth form social networks, build social capital, and connect to educa­tional and occupational opportunities.

Click here to read the full report or visit for an interactive tool that offers state–specific data and information.


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