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“Millennials” Play a Central Role in our Nation’s Civic Health, but Who are They?

Major New Study Provides In-Depth Insight on Diverse Engagement of a Generation

February 6, 2013

Washington, DC-- The Millennials Civic Health Index, released today by four of the top civic organizations in the country, paints a comprehensive picture of young Americans 18 to 29. The study challenges commonly held beliefs about a generation of young Americans whose votes played a critical role in November’s presidential election. The report highlights the diverse ways in which Millennials are taking action in their communities beyond the voting booth, online and offline, across different regions of the United States.

The report, produced by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, and, illustrates:

• this generation of Americans represents a potent civic and political force - comprising a national voting bloc of 21.3% of eligible voters who are playing a critical role in our democracy and driving community action nationwide;

• education is strongly connected to civic engagement—some indicators show a college graduate is four or five times more likely to engage than someone without a high school diploma;

• Millennials are hard hit by the economic crisis—62.9% are currently working, of which 31.2% work on a part-time basis—with potential implications for civic engagement;

• some surprising trends--while engagement typically increases with age, 22-25 year olds have lower levels of social cohesion and volunteerism than older or younger peers. And, while education predicts most forms of engagement, young people without a college education are more likely to help their neighbors on a regular basis.

The full study -- with numerous additional findings such as the civic consequences of education; ways, types and rates of civic engagement; beliefs and opinions about pressing issues and elected leaders -- is available for download on this page.

CIRCLE lead researcher Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, who led the study’s quantitative analysis, said, “this groundbreaking research underscores, in red ink, that young Americans play too critical of a role in our democracy to simply be mischaracterized and dismissed as “lazy”, “apathetic” and “entitled”. It’s democratic malpractice for us to not better understand a generation of Americans with such a decisive role in the health of our nation and the future of our democracy.”

The study, authored by representatives from leading centers in the study of civic life and young Americans, draws on rigorous data, including civic indicators collected through a partnership between NCoC, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the US Census Bureau. “Millennials are a critical part of America’s civic foundation,” said Ilir Zherka, NCoC’s Executive Director. “This report shines a light on the ways in which Millennials are already actively engaged in our communities, and the areas where we need to continue working to increase their civic engagement.”

The study also incorporates a rich array of data including Harvard’s Institute of Politics’ twelve-year polling project on Millennials’ political views, and input from young leaders convened by The data was analyzed by CIRCLE’s team of researchers who also contributed scholarly expertise on youth engagement.

“After studying the political and civic beliefs of America’s young adults for twelve years, we know they care about their communities – and their country,” said Harvard’s Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson. “Working to better understand and engage with 18-29 year-olds – the Millennial generation – is not only critical to ensuring a healthy democracy and citizenry, but also imperative for today’s political campaigns looking to appeal to this key demographic.”

“This report shows that when communities are open to engaging Millennials in an authentic way, they become places in which people want to work and live,” said Board Chair, Kari Saratovsky. “Authentic programs and initiatives that cultivate youth ownership in local communities are powerful reminders of the work that can and has been done to strengthen our nation's civic health.”

In response to the growing need for Millennial leadership development, has introduced two new programs, Mobilizer Academy and Speakers Bureau, that focus on elevating Millennial best practices for improving communities, empowering young leaders and their peers, addressing social problems and providing a more sustainable path for our collective future. The two programs will commence at's Millennial Leaders Seminar February 8-10, 2013 in New York City.
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By at 10:03 PM on Feb 7th, 2013
Dunno, it's not listed in the report. Did they get a degree in a science or an art? Sociology, Womens Studies, Psychology, Journalism, Basketweaving and all the other useless degrees will get you no where.
By SometimesElla at 11:35 AM on Mar 25th, 2013
My degree is in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in theater, and I'm pleased to report I make great money. More than either of my parents, if you must know.
Keep generalizing though, it only makes you look silly.
By Mike Lynn at 12:57 PM on Feb 8th, 2013
As noted above no information on the type of education these folk have acquired. A degree in Women's Studies and 25 cents won't buy you a cup of coffee!

I'm a Baby Boomer 62 years old, US born but choosing to live abroad - I gave up on the USA in 2006. All this talk of civic engagement seems pretty light weight. It's for dreamers who have way too much time on their hands. Other than voting my pocket book when given the opportunity and going to donate at my local blood bank every 2 months, I've learned that the human animal is so very venal and corrupt that civic engagement is pretty useless.

As we proceed merrily into the second Obama administration and watch the influence of government grow in people's lives, I would predict that there will be a back lash from the Millennials at some point when they wake up and discover that their future has been taken from them by a careless and bullying government. You have only to look at the good civically-oriented words of your President and then what is done from backstage by the likes of Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod - these are the venal ones that bring ill-repute on humanity and lower expectations while gaining ever more control.

The Millennials need only know the tools that bring success are personal drive and commitment, a job, a plan and your government keeping it's hand out of your pocket. Then you have the CHANCE to prosper. Currently their generation and others behind them have a zero change of success so long as the insidious reach of government continues. This beast reaches ever deeper into wallets and tinkers with out fabric of life.

My advice to Millennials: If you choose to stay in the States you'll have a tough road to attain a resilient, robust future that your grandparents had come to EXPECT. Don't take any kind of money or social welfare assistance from the government. Take no food stamps, no unemployment money, no welfare, no Section 8 housing assistance. Stay away from ALL of it!

Your option for happiness? Try Liberty! It's kinda an old fashioned concept but it works every time - minimize government especially taxation, maximize personal freedoms and opportunities. Or you can develop a Plan B as I did and move out. There are some very interesting countries you can look at Belgium, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Ecuador.

I moved away because I saw a sad lot of people in the U.S. that had become co-opted and lied to by government at all levels by both political parties in the U.S. and for the most part the American public had bought into the idea that government is the answer. In my opinion there really IS NO FREE LUNCH. You have to earn your own way and you can best do it when government is minimalized. I don't think the U.S. any longer possesses the collective will to be great again or for that matter provide a system that gives you the platform to compete fairly - too many Axelrod's and Emanuel's who have the fix in! The civic approach is meaningless up against a gang like this. It's Stalin and Hitler all over again. It's all about control over YOU. Good luck Millennials.
By Dan at 5:21 PM on Mar 21st, 2013
Wow, nice dystopian rant you got there Mike. I'm a bit surprised that it took you until the last line to invoke Godwin's Law.

What the government can do for Millenials, and us all, is to help ensure that education and health care are affordable.
By Dasha at 12:00 PM on Oct 31st, 2013
Hi, when you say that only 62.9% of Millennials are currently working, can you please specify the exact age that are you referring to? - i.e. if it is people over the age of 18, I'm assuming a significant number of them are full-time college students..

Thank you,
By at 6:14 PM on Nov 4th, 2013
Dasha‚??Thanks for your question. The statistic refers to 18-29 year olds. You can see the full breakdown of statistics on pg 7 of the report that help address this point. This shows that while 62.9% of 18-29 year olds reported that they were employed, 9.7% reported unemployment. The remaining 27.4% were out of the labor force, for reasons like being full-time students, caring for family, or disability.
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