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Civic Health and the Economy: Making the Connection

2013 Issue Brief

September 18, 2013
Multiple studies over the past several years point to a compelling truth: there is a strong relationship between civic health and a thriving economy. This report attempts to weave together the most interesting studies into a story about how communities become healthier when more people are civically engaged.

Together with our partners, NCoC has embarked on a journey to explore what role civic health can play in boosting the economic performance of our communities. That exploration culminated in two studies. In 2011, we examined the relationship between civic engagement and economic resilience, finding that five measures of civic engagement – attending meetings, helping neighbors, registering to vote, volunteering and voting - help protect communities against unemployment and contribute to overall economic resiliency. The subsequent study - released in 2012 – built upon the first. It found that communities with greater nonprofit density and stronger social cohesion were not hit as hard during the Great Recession.

In June 2013, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) made the next connection between social cohesion and employment when they released “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment.” This report provides substantial evidence establishing a connection between volunteering and finding a job. The report shows that volunteering is associated with an increased likelihood of finding employment for all volunteers regardless of a person’s gender, age, ethnicity, geographic area or the job market conditions.

This report outlines those studies and summarizes a number of others that found:

Civic engagement can develop skills, confidence and habits that make individuals employable— and signal desirable qualities to potential employers.
Participation in civil society is strongly correlated with trust in other people. High levels of trust and social capital, in turn, may facilitate economic transactions and promote innovation in business.
Civic engagement can encourage people to feel attached to their communities, and create an infrastructure that encourages people to invest, spend and hire.

We hope that you will share the good news about how communities become healthier with family, friends, and colleagues around the country.

Produced by:
National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) in partnership with the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), Knight Foundation, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)

Authors:
Primary Authors: Peter Levine and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg
Editors: Kristen Cambell, Jeff Coates, Kristi Tate, Ben Thrutchley, and Ilir Zherka

Special thanks to Dr. Chris Spera, Adrienne DiTommaso, and the CNCS team for their contributions.
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