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A report released in October by Missouri State University and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) finds that while Missouri out-performs national trends for volunteering, community engagement and voter turnout, some forms of civic involvement, such as one-on-one interactions with neighbors, may be waning.
The Missouri Civic Health Index is the first of its kind and is designed to help the state document the health of Missouri’s civic sector. The report follows the September release of the report Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation, a report released jointly by NCoC and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which provides an annual measure of civic habits, much as the government measures economic behavior.
Research showed that Missouri’s college graduates are five times more likely to volunteer than those without high school diplomas, and are nine times as likely to attend a public meeting. Household income levels also influence volunteering rates, with those in households with incomes of $75,000 or more having a 23 percent higher volunteer rate than those with incomes lower than $35,000. However, Missouri families with incomes less than $35,000 are twice as likely to do favors for their neighbors than those among families with incomes greater than $75,000. And, Missourians without a college education are significantly more likely than their peers in other states to be a member of and hold a leadership position in a social group. Thus, Missouri has a stronger blue-collar base for civic participation than most other states have.
The report identifies statewide efforts to foster civic engagement including improved voting procedures, the establishment of the Missouri Community Service Commission and the Missouri Service-Learning Regional Centers, and a statewide civics test required in public schools. However, the report finds that while the state performs relatively well on several civic health indicators, including voter turnout and volunteering, the economy and looming cuts to higher education may undercut the ability for many within Missouri’s middle class to pursue civic engagement.
Key Research Findings
The report includes economic, geographic and generational analysis to see how income, place and age may affect our contributions to community. Findings include:
Declines in manufacturing, construction and transportation jobs may weaken the economic foundation for civic participation by blue-collar members of Missouri’s middle class. And likely deep cuts in state funding for higher education will present challenges for education of future civic leaders in the state.
The complete report, “2010 Missouri Civic Health Assessment,” is available online at http://ncoc.net/mochi2010. The report is based upon an independent analysis by Missouri State University’s sociology program which was further supported by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) analysis of the Census Current Population Survey (CPS) data. A series of conferences will be held statewide and on the campus of Missouri State University in late winter/early spring of 2011 to discuss the findings and implications for the state.