Opportunity Nation, with research partner Measure of America, explores civic engagement and economic opportunity through the lens of the Opportunity Index, a data-rich tool that measures a region's capacity to expand opportunity to residents using 16 economic, educational and community factors.
One of the indicators that correlates most closely with a state's Opportunity Score or a county's Opportunity Grade is the percentage of teens and young adults ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working. Decreasing the number of disconnected youth is an urgent national priority, both to help millions of young Americans get ahead and to boost our nation's overall productivity and prosperity. Volunteerism and group membership may build social capital for youth, promote upward mobility and contribute to a range of positive outcomes that benefit both the individual and the community.
- Education remains one of most powerful routes to opportunity.
- Analysis, bolstered by existing research, suggests that other avenues to upward mobility, namely volunteering and participation in civic and service groups, may also be critical.
- Teens and young adults who volunteer, across all races and socioeconomic levels, are less likely to be disconnected, com-pared to their peers who do not volunteer.
- Controlling for differences across the 25 largest U.S. cities, the chance that a young adult is disconnected from work or school drops in half, from 11.1 percent to 5.73 percent, if he or she volunteers.
- Volunteering may serve as an important bridge to deeper civic participation and economic well-being for youth ages 16-24.
- In places with high levels of income inequality, volunteerism rates tend to be lower, and vice versa. This evidence suggests civic engagement may be a key ingredient for building economic opportunity at the state level.