What We’re Reading: New Civic Deserts Report
Do You Live in a Civic Desert?
““Civic Deserts” — communities without opportunities for civic engagement — are increasingly common in the United States. The continued decline in a wide range of important indicators of civic health and connectivity threatens our prosperity, safety, and democracy.” (p. 4)
A new report “Civic Deserts: America’s Civic Health Challenges” was released last week at the 2017 annual NCoC conference. The report by Matthew N. Atwell, John Bridgeland and Peter Levine was produced in partnership with Civic Enterprises, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and the MCJ Amelior Foundation.
Some of the findings highlighted in the report include:
- “28 percent of Americans say that they belong to any group that has leaders whom they consider both accountable and inclusive” (p. 4)
- “From 1974 to 2004, membership in at least one community organization or group had decreased by more than 13 percentage points.” (p. 4)
- The report estimates that 60% of rural young Americans and almost a third of urban and suburban Americans perceive their communities to be civic deserts
- “Both American history education and civics education have been largely stagnant in participation and achievement since the 1990s;
- The percent of Americans who read a newspaper every day has declined in tandem with dwindling rates of trust in all forms of news media;
- Confidence in all branches of government continued to decline, as turnout in both presidential and congressional elections dropped in 2016 and 2014, respectively;
- The percent of Americans who spend time online and use social media platforms continued to rise, raising the possibility of the potential of new technologies to bolster civic engagement in new ways; and
- Volunteering in the United States has fallen significantly from nearly 30 percent of the population in 2005 to less than 25 percent in 2015.” (p. 6)