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The Engaged Citizen Index: Examining the Racial and Ethnic Civic and Political Engagement Gaps of Young Adults

A new working paper highlights various disparities in the political and civic participation of youth.

In CIRCLE Working Paper 74, Rebecca Jacobsen and Tamara Wilder Linkow construct a composite index of engaged citizenship indicators for young adults that incorporates 40 variables weighted according to the input of a panel of experts. The resulting Engaged Citizen Index reveals significant racial and ethnic gaps in young adult civic and political participation.

On average, Hispanics are the least engaged young adults with a percentile rank of 42.5. This means that 57.5 percent of young adults in the United States are more engaged citizens than the average Hispanic young adult.

Black young adults rank second at about the 44th percentile, and white young adults are the most engaged citizens with a percentile rank of 53rd in the national distribution. Moreover, the gap varies significantly between categories of civic engagement, with the largest gap being found in civic and political knowledge. These results allow policy makers to examine how the gap varies across categories and then target policy interventions more effectively.