mother.jpgBeing altruistic and civically-minded could be good for your career and the overall economy.

“States and localities with more civic engagement in 2006 saw less growth in unemployment between 2006 and 2010,” according to a report by the National Conference on Citizenship titled “Civic Health and Unemployment: Can Engagement Strengthen the Economy?”

In addition, the study reported, “strong positive correlations were found between civic engagement and resilience against unemployment.”

The five types of engagement include: volunteering, attending public meetings, working with neighbors to address community problems, registering to vote, and voting.

And the states with the most public-spirited citizens were:

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When all these factors were reviewed “the model explained more (64%) of the variation in unemployment change. In other words, understanding a state’s civic health in 2006 helped predict how it weathered the recession even if one also knew its economic conditions in 2006.”

In trying to explain why there is less unemployment in areas where there’s more civic engagement, the authors of the study surmised:

• Participation in civil society can develop skills, confidence, and habits that make individuals employable and strengthen the networks that help them to find jobs. Fifty-nine percent of volunteers in national service programs believe their service will improve their chance of finding jobs. National service participation has also been found to boost “basic work skills, including gathering and analyzing information, motivating coworkers, and managing time.”

• People get jobs through social networks. Job opportunities are often found through friends, family, professional connections. Multi-billion-dollar online social networks have been created to facilitate these connections for hiring. This suggests the need for those seeking employment to maintain strong relationships with neighbors and members of their service and civic organizations. As noted above, belonging to groups and serving on committees were correlated with unemployment change at the state level from 2006-10.

• Participation in civil society spreads information. Attending meetings, working with neighbors on community problems, volunteering, and receiving newsletters from nonprofit organizations are examples of valuable ways of learning about local issues and opportunities. In communities with better flows of information, it is easier for individuals to find jobs or educational programs, for businesses to find partners and employees, and for citizens to hold government accountable.

• Participation in civil society is strongly correlated with trust in other people. Although measures of trust are not included in this analysis, most studies find that trusting other people encourages individuals to join groups, and participating in groups builds trust. In turn, trust is a powerful predictor of economic success because people who trust are more likely to enter contracts and business partnerships, and confidence in others is a precondition for investing and hiring.

• Communities and political jurisdictions with stronger civil societies are more likely to have good governments. Rates of voting (in 2006), registering to vote (in 2006 and 2008), and contacting public officials (in 2008) predict states’ resilience against unemployment from 2006-10. Those are measures of citizens’ engagement with government. Active and organized citizens can demand and promote good governance and serve as partners to government in addressing public problems. States with more civic engagement have much higher performing public schools (regardless of the states’ demographics, spending, and class sizes).

Wow. Who ever thought helping our communities would end up helping ourselves and our communities.

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