The Civic Opportunity Gap
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The Civic Opportunity Gap. A Generation of High Achievers?. These are some winning words from the National Spelling Bee, by year: 1932: knack 1940: therapy 1973: vouchsafe 1975: incisor 2001: succedaneum 2004: autochthonous (Strauss and Howe, Millennials Rising .).

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The Civic Opportunity Gap

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The Civic Opportunity Gap


A Generation of High Achievers?

These are some winning words from the National Spelling Bee, by year:

1932: knack

1940: therapy

1973: vouchsafe

1975: incisor

2001: succedaneum

2004: autochthonous

(Strauss and Howe, Millennials Rising.)


But National Scores are Flat

It’s the “long tail” of the achievement curve that is performing well.


College Attendance is also Flat

  • Half of Young Adults Have No College Experience

 Source: Census Current Population Supplement, tabulated by Abby Kiesa and Karlo Barrios Marcelo, "Youth Demographics--Youth with no College Experience," CIRCLE Fact Sheet, January 2009


  • As they move from age 18 through age 21, no more than 45 percent of each recent cohort is ever enrolled in college

People born 1980-84. National Longitudinal Study of Youth, Source: Analyzed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/nlsyth.pdf


Low mobility:

Only 7 percent of students from the bottom quarter of the income distribution will obtain a bachelors degree by the age of 26, compared to 60 percent of those from the top quarter

(Susan M. Dynarski & Judith E. Scott-Clayton, Brookings, 2007)


Half of Those Who Do not Attend College are People of Color

 Source: Census Current Population Supplement, tabulated by Abby Kiesa and Karlo Barrios Marcelo, "Youth Demographics--Youth with no College Experience," CIRCLE Fact Sheet, January 2009 (http://www.civicyouth.org/PopUps/FactSheets/FS08_YthDemo_CollExp.pdf)


  • Young Adults with no College Experience are Most Vulnerable to Unemployment in Recessions

 Source: Census Current Population Supplement, tabulated by Abby Kiesa and Karlo Barrios Marcelo, "Youth Demographics--Youth with no College Experience," CIRCLE Fact Sheet, January 2009 (http://www.civicyouth.org/PopUps/FactSheets/FS08_YthDemo_CollExp.pdf)


Voter Turnout Depends on Educational Level

Census data, analyzed by CIRCLE


  • Volunteering is Also More Common for College Youth

Source: Census Current Population Supplement data tabulated by Karlo Barrios Marcelo, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, and Emily Hoban Kirby for “Volunteering and College Experience,” CIRCLE Fact Sheet


  • For College-Educated Youth, Civic Engagement has Declined Since the 1970s

Source: General Social Survey data, tabulated in Flanagan, Levine, and Settersten, Civic Engagement and the Changing Transition to Adulthood (CIRCLE, 2009)


  • There Have Also been Declines in Civic Engagement for Young Adults with No College Experience

Source: General Social Survey data, tabulated in Flanagan, Levine, and Settersten, Civic Engagement and the Changing Transition to Adulthood (CIRCLE, 2009)


  • The Result is a Dramatic Gap Today

 Source: General Social Survey data, tabulated in Flanagan, Levine, and Settersten, Civic Engagement and the Changing Transition to Adulthood (CIRCLE, 2009)


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