NCOC Featured Discussion

Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2012 By the Numbers

Are Americans Bowling Alone?

February 26, 2013
On December 12th, NCoC and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released Volunteering and Civic Life in America, providing national, state, city and geographic data on the ways in which Americans are engaged in their communities. Some findings show great promise—the national volunteer rate reached a five-year high and there are upward trends in the rates at which Americans help each other informally, by looking after one another’s kids or helping a neighbor in need. Other findings, however, show critical room for improvement. Over the next several weeks, NCoC will highlight some of the key findings of the 2012 report.

“Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations… Nothing, in my view, deserves more attention than the intellectual and moral associations in America.” -Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

The importance of participation in groups and associations to American civic life was captured in de Tocqueville’s early observations of American democracy. In his seminal work on social capital,
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Professor Robert Putnam reinforces the critical importance of group participation to civic life in America: “Official membership in formal organizations is only one facet of social capital, but it is usually regarded as a useful barometer of community involvement.”

As such, group participation has been a central component of the data collected to inform Volunteering and Civic Life in America. We explore the degree to which Americans are involved in organizations, what types of groups they participate in, and whether or not they serve in leadership roles.

Through the 2011 CPS Civic Engagement Supplement, we found that nationally
just over a third of Americans are involved in any groups while the majority are not at all. When we consider the types of organizations that Americans are engaged in, religious organizations receive the highest responses with 20.6% of Americans reporting that they are involved. 15.8% are involved in a school or neighborhood group, 11.4% in a sports or recreation group, 7.7% in a service of civic organization, and 5.8% in any other organization.

Additionally, just
10.6% of Americans serve as an officer or committee member for these organizations.

Alaska ranks highest in the nation for group involvement, with 54.6% of Alaskans reporting they’re involved in some group. Louisiana ranks last with only 31.1% of residents involved. Louisiana also ranks last in group leadership, with only 6.0% of residents serving as an officer or committee member. The highest-ranking state in the country on this measure is Utah with a striking 20.9% of the state’s residents serving in a group leadership role.

Regionally,
the Midwest (defined as including the following states: ND, SD, NE, KS, MN, IA, MO, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH) is the most engaged overall in organizations with 40.8% of residents involved in groups and 13.0% involved in leadership roles.

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1 Comment
By Kaylan at 9:45 AM on Apr 3rd, 2013
Right on-this helped me sort tihgns right out.
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