High school teens in California who volunteer, take part in community aid groups, and join school or other clubs are healthier and more likely to aspire to attending college, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
The study found that regardless of race or family income, one in three teens have a high level of civic efficacy, defined as caring about issues, feeling connected to others who are engaged in civic activities and feeling as if they can make a difference. However, there is a significant gap by race and income between those who are interested in and those who engage in civic activity.
“Latino teens had the lowest rates of participation in clubs and volunteering,” said Dr. Susan Babey, research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and lead author of the report. “Our research showed teens who don’t participate in these types of community activities say they aren’t as healthy and are less likely to see college in their future.”
Teen civic involvement by income, race, citizenship
Using responses of 2,253 teens from the statewide 2013-2014 California Health Interview Survey, the study looked at four areas of civic engagement among high school age teens in its analysis:
Two-thirds, or 64 percent, of the teens surveyed said they volunteered in the past year, making it the most common civic activity. Those from lower-income households (below 200 percent of the federal poverty level) had the lowest rates of volunteering, 45 percent. Of racial and ethnic groups, 55 percent of Latino teens said they volunteered, compared to 66 percent of multiracial teens and Asians, 68 percent of African-Americans and 78 percent of whites.
Based on citizenship status, naturalized teens exceeded U.S.-born teens in rates of civic participation in three of four measures: They have high civic efficacy (45 percent vs. 33 percent, respectively); belong to two or more clubs (42 percent vs. 29 percent); and are in an organization that is trying to make a difference (61 percent vs. 40 percent). They match their U.S.-born counterparts in the remaining category, volunteer activity, 66 percent.