A report released today by the National Conference on Citizenship, CICLE (the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), Civic Enterprises, Saguaro Seminar, and the National Constitution Center suggests that “levels of civic engagement in 2006 and 2008 strongly predicted how well states and large metro areas would weather the unemployment crisis of 2006-10.”

This is an exciting report. There is a great deal of research that suggests that higher levels of civic engagement are associated with greater “resiliency” by communities.

According to CIRCLE researchers:

The report carefully notes that we cannot tell for sure whether civic engagement lowers unemployment; other explanations are explored. However, the statistical relationships are notably strong and deserve much more attention by economists, policymakers, and the public.

The statistical analysis itself cannot explain why civic engagement may be an important factor in avoiding unemployment, but other research lends support for several hypotheses:

  • Participation in civil society can develop skills, confidence, and habits that make individuals employable and strengthen the networks that help them to find jobs
  • People get jobs through social networks (online and offline)
  • Participation in civil society spreads information relevant to investors and workers
  • Participation in civil society is strongly correlated with trust in other people, and people who trust others are more likely to invest and hire
  • Communities and political jurisdictions with stronger civil societies are more likely to have good governments
  • Civic engagement can encourage people to feel attached to their communities

I am proud of my past association with the National Conference on Citizenship: I was the chief writer and my company, the Mannakee Circle Group, was a partner in the development of last year’s Maryland Civic Health Index.