Thirty-Year Trends in U.S. Adolescents' Civic Engagement: A Story of Changing Participation and Educational Differences

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Social and Behavioral Sciences


Using annual cross-sectional data from Monitoring the Future, the present study examined trends in high school seniors' current and anticipated civic participation and beliefs over a 30-year period. We examined overall trends and patterns based on youths' post-high school educational plans. Findings point to declines in recent cohorts' involvement in conventional and alternative forms of engagement but greater involvement in community service. Regardless of period, the majority of youth said they intended to vote when eligible, but few expressed trust in the government or elected officials. All civic indicators showed significant differences based on youths' college aspirations: Youth who planned to graduate from a 4-year college were more civically inclined than their peers with 2-year or no college plans.

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© 2011 Amy K. Syvertsen, Laura Wray-Lake, Constance A. Flanagan, D. Wayne Osgood, and Laine Briddell. Journal of Research on Adolescence © 2011 Society for Research on Adolescence

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