Civic Identity, Civic Skills, and Civic Knowledge: The Role of Adolescent School Experiences in Facilitating Civic Engagement in Adulthood Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Patterson, Kristina
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Public Policy
  • In the following three studies, we explore approaches to increase civic engagement in the United States by examining the relationship between adolescent school experiences and civic engagement in adulthood. First, we examine the relationship between the civic identity development opportunities presented in various extracurricular activities and civic engagement in adulthood. We find that participation in instrumental activities, such as student government, student newspaper, or yearbook, which likely work through all four mechanisms of civic identity development, is associated with an increased likelihood of nearly all measures of civic engagement in adulthood, and that these effects persist up to fourteen years. We also find positive relationships between participation in expressive activities, such as band, chorus, and drama, and academic and hobby clubs and civic engagement in adulthood. These findings suggest a need for additional research to better understand the civic identity development opportunities presented in these various extracurricular activities. Second, we examine student access to a range of civic education courses. We find some evidence that schools with higher concentrations of racial/ethnic minorities and low income students offer less access to civic education courses, however, these relationships are not linear and are not consistent across course categories. We find that students experiencing poverty and students with low levels of parental education are less likely to take particular civic education courses than their higher socioeconomic status peers within the same schools. Additional research is needed to understand the mechanisms which lead certain groups of students to take (or not take) particular civic education courses. Finally, we examine the impact of taking a range of civic education courses in high school on civic participation in adulthood. We find evidence that high school civic education coursework contributes to an individual’s likelihood of civic engagement in adulthood. In particular, Experiential Learning courses and Civic Skills Development courses are associated with an increased likelihood of participating in a range of civic activities, up to fourteen years after the course was taken. We suggest future research to examine differential effects of civic education coursework across subgroups of students and school contexts.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Levine, Peter
  • Henry, Gary
  • Gitterman, Daniel
  • Durrance, Christine
  • Scott, John
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

This work has no parents.