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Washington, D.C.
Copyright © 2005
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., Suite 400
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All rights reserved

The AmeriCorps Experiment and the Future of National Service /
Will Marshall and Marc Porter Magee, editors.

Typeset in Adobe Garamond

Cover design, figure illustration and composition by Tyler Stone.
Copy editing by Tom Mirga.
Proofreading by Jean Christensen.

All photos from Corporation for National and Community Service archive,
except photo on page 98 of City Year members by Jim Harrison.

Printed by Horizon Communications
Washington, D.C.
FOREWARD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VII


1.Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise?
Marc Porter Magee and Will Marshall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1


2. A Frontline View David Eisner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

3. A Global Perspective Susan Stroud . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63


4. Putting Faith in Service Steven Waldman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

5. National Service on a Community Scale Stephen Goldsmith . . . 87

6. The Case for Universal Service William A. Galston . . . . . . . . . . . 99

7. The Voluntary Path to Universal Service
Will Marshall and Marc Porter Magee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

NATIONAL SERVICE: A CHRONOLOGY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124

CONTRIBUTORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
Foreward • VII


emosclerosis” is the term that writer Jonathan Rausch
“ coined to describe how lawmakers, bureaucrats, and
beneficiaries unite to defend government programs
against change and endow them with the political equivalent of
This is not the fate we wish for AmeriCorps, our country’s unique
experiment in voluntary national service. Having just marked its
10th anniversary, AmeriCorps has weathered political storms and
has anchored itself firmly in communities around the country. But
as strong advocates of national service, we do not want AmeriCorps
to become another brick in the bureaucratic wall.
National service is not your typical government program. It is a
new civic venture that, like any entrepreneurial start-up, must con-
stantly readjust its founding premises and assumptions against the
realities of the markets in which it competes. We believe AmeriCorps
offers an intriguing new way of tackling public problems, but it
remains very much a work in progress. The enterprise and its friends
can only gain by remaining open to criticism, susceptible to change,
and willing periodically to rethink its purposes and rationale.
This volume was written in that spirit. It evaluates AmeriCorps’
performance over its first decade, explores possible futures for
national service, and offers concrete ideas for expanding opportuni-
ties for Americans, young and old, to serve.
Above all, we hope to build a sturdy, empirical foundation for the
wider public debate on national service. Part one of this volume
offers a concise synthesis of what a decade of research can and can-
not tell us about AmeriCorps’ effectiveness when judged against the
four original goals set by national service advocates: tackling unmet
needs, expanding opportunity, bringing Americans together through
service, and strengthening citizenship and civic enterprise.

Part two offers a progress report on national service at home and Taking the opposite tack is William A. Galston, Saul I. Stern profes-
abroad. David Eisner, chief executive officer of the Corporation for sor of civic engagement and director of the Institute for Philosophy and
National and Community Service, describes recent management and Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Although he was a prime
financial reforms at CNCS and maintains that service is “just begin- architect of AmeriCorps as a top policy adviser to President Clinton,
ning to hit its stride.” He outlines a five-year plan that focuses on Galston now calls for a more comprehensive vision of “universal serv-
bolstering bipartisan support, using national service to organize ice” that would entail conscripting young Americans into military or
more private volunteering, leveraging federal dollars more effective- civilian service. He argues that if “we work as hard to foster an ethic of
ly, and strengthening partnerships with colleges and universities. contribution and reciprocity” as we have at creating programs that
Susan Stroud, executive director of Innovations in Civic enhance individual self-improvement, consumption, and choice, “we
Participation, takes readers on a tour of the last decade of national can create a richer civic culture that summons, in the words of Lincoln,
service developments across a dozen countries. She argues that the better angels of our nature.”
America’s experiment in national service is best understood as part of Finally, building on ideas developed at the Progressive Policy
a worldwide service movement that may eventually become “a com- Institute, we propose an alternative, voluntary path to universal
mon experience and expectation for the majority of young people service. Based on the model of the post-World War II G.I. Bill, our
worldwide.” plan would offer federal student aid to young Americans willing to
Part three features essays by a philosophically diverse group of give something back to their country through either military or
commentators, all of whom have figured prominently in public civilian service. It prescribes concrete steps for scaling up
debates over national service since its inception. These writers offer AmeriCorps with the ultimate goal of making national service “a
bold and sharply contrasting views of the various evolutionary paths common expectation—a rite of civic passage—for young Americans
that AmeriCorps might take over the next decade. on their way to responsible and productive citizenship.”
For example, Steven Waldman—co-founder and editor-in-chief of We hope that this appraisal of the existing research, coupled with
Beliefnet, a multi-faith online community, and author of The Bill, a imaginative proposals from leading thinkers in the field, will inform
book about the creation of AmeriCorps—argues for a dramatic the public debate over what course America’s national service exper-
expansion of national service, linked to a new push to challenge iment should take over its second decade.
“some 100,000 houses of worship” to provide free room and board
to service volunteers. “Imagine what would happen,” Waldman ***
writes, “if the nation’s religious organizations placed a greater
emphasis on repairing the world, to use the Jewish phrase, than on We wish to thank the contributing authors for their essays and also
arguing.” acknowledge the work of Tom Mirga for his usual excellence in
Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis picked by bringing out the best in all of our writing, Rachel Chute for helping
President Bush to chair the Corporation for National and to manage the project to a successful completion, and Tyler Stone
Community Service, puts the accent on “community.” He envisions for ensuring that this volume’s design matched the quality of the
a decentralized future for national service as an organizer of local, contributions.
neighborhood-based efforts to mobilize what Edmund Burke called We would also like to offer special thanks to William Schambra,
the “little platoons” of civil society. Robert Grimm, and Ben Binswanger for their help in developing the

concept behind this project during many hours of brainstorming in
the fall of 2004.
Last but certainly not least, we wish to acknowledge Jean and Steve
Case, whose generous grant made this volume possible. We are grate-
ful to the Case Foundation for its support of and enthusiasm for this
project from the beginning and for its overall commitment to the
goal of a more active and engaged citizenry.

—Will Marshall and Marc Porter Magee
Washington, D.C., May 2005

Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 1


Has AmeriCorps
Lived Up to Its Promise?

n Sept. 12, 1994, President Clinton swore in
the first AmeriCorps class of 500 volunteers on
the White House lawn. After a rough begin-
ning, including repeated attempts to cut off its funding,
the corps has broadened its base of political support and
has grown to 75,000 full- and part-time members in
2005. Now, with calls for further expansion, it is time
to look closely at the AmeriCorps record over its first
decade and take stock of this unique civic enterprise.
Is national service working? That is a difficult ques-
tion to answer, for two reasons. First, national service
arguably has been freighted with more expectations and
missions than it can reasonably bear. The idea of nation-
al service exerts a strong hold on the public imagination,
but Americans are drawn to it for many different rea-
sons. Among policymakers as well, there is no single
definition of what national service should be or do, and,
therefore, no agreed-upon yardstick for measuring its
progress. Second, the research on AmeriCorps’ perform-
ance, though suggestive, is not yet comprehensive or
rigorous enough to support definitive judgments.
2 • THE AMERICORPS EXPERIMENT AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 3

In this chapter, we survey the available research, gauge its quality, These “New Democrats” advocated national service as an antidote
identify gaps in our knowledge, and offer some provisional conclu- to what they saw as the impoverished conception of citizenship on
sions about whether national service is living up to its promise. Our both ends of the left-right spectrum. The left’s demand for more
aim is to provide a solid empirical foundation for an informed pub- rights and entitlements, they said, eroded civic responsibility by
lic debate over the future of national service. promising “something for nothing.” The right’s animus toward gov-
At the same time, we do not pretend to be dispassionate observers ernment, meanwhile, fostered an “every man for himself ” mentality,
when it comes to national service. On the contrary, we strongly sup- rather than a spirit of mutual obligation. By proposing a large-scale
port the initiative and would like to see it grow dramatically. Yet we national service plan that linked public benefits (chiefly college aid)
also recognize that national service is a public experiment for which to public service, New Democrats sought to strike a new balance
there is no clear precedent or template. AmeriCorps is a protean proj- between citizens’ rights and their responsibilities.
ect, one we are literally making up as we go along. Therefore, it Toward that end, they set four specific goals for national service:
behooves supporters of service to be open to criticism, to be prepared
for frequent changes and adjustments, and to continually measure • Mobilize the nation’s youth to tackle pressing social problems.
our expectations against the realities unfolding on the ground.
It is important to begin our appraisal by describing the yardstick we • Open new paths to opportunity and upward mobility for young
use for measuring AmeriCorps’ progress. A brief history of how this people who serve their country.
distinctive vision of national service evolved is in order.
• Bring Americans together across lines of class, race, and ethnicity.
• Awaken a new spirit of civic duty and participation in America.
The idea of national service has intrigued Americans since the
philosopher William James first proposed it in his famous 1906 essay, New Democrats envisioned national service as a “new GI Bill” that
“The Moral Equivalent of War.” He envisioned service as a way to would offer college tuition in exchange for either civilian or military
“inflame the civic temper” and foster the sentiments of solidarity and service to the nation. Leery of make-work programs intended to
common endeavor that galvanize societies in wartime but dissipate in make participants “feel good about themselves,” they insisted that
peacetime. national service put society’s needs first. According to Charles
As U.S. leaders have since learned in trying to rally the nation to Moskos, a Northwestern University sociologist and key architect of
confront societal ills ranging from poverty to oil dependence to illic- national service:
it drugs, there probably is no moral equivalent of war. Nonetheless,
the idea of enlisting the nation’s youth to serve their country has “We have a military to meet a pressing national need, not to mature
proved remarkably durable, resurfacing in one form or another for young men or women. The same standard must be applied to civilian
decades. It was not until the late 1980s, however, that political inter- service. To focus on the server invites negative stereotypes in the character
est in a large-scale program of national service reached critical mass. of the server. To focus on the service delivered is to invoke civic sentiments.
The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), whose leaders then Only when national service is cast in terms of meeting a real need can its
included Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, was a prime catalyst. positive, but necessarily derivative, benefits for the server be achieved.” 1
4 • THE AMERICORPS EXPERIMENT AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 5

National service is a new form of civic activism that relies on private Citizenship and National Service Act, which proposed an 800,000-
citizens rather than public employees to solve urgent social problems. member Citizen Corps that would offer young Americans an oppor-
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) once described it as the latest example tunity to earn federal tuition vouchers by serving in their communi-
of the venerable American tradition of “social inventions.” Like the set- ties or as short-term “citizen-soldiers” in the armed forces. Nunn and
tlement houses and night schools that helped America absorb successive his allies were forced to settle for a small demonstration project in
waves of immigrants, national service opens new paths to opportunity 1990. But Clinton, Nunn’s successor as DLC chairman, kept the
and upward mobility for both corps members and the people they serve. national service flame alive. In 1992 the Arkansas governor—to the
And, like the GI Bill, national service is a long-term investment in the consternation of his political consultants—made national service a
education, skills, and civic capacity of our people. touchstone of his presidential campaign. He described it this way:
It is important to draw a clear distinction between national service
and private volunteerism. Alexis de Tocqueville was famously struck “A domestic GI Bill that would ask young Americans to go to the streets
by Americans’ habit of forming voluntary civic associations to of our cities and be teachers, to be policemen where we need commu-
advance their mutual interests. This ethos of civic self-reliance nity policemen, to be nurses where there’s a nursing shortage, to be
remains integral to American democracy. President George H.W. family service workers where families are breaking down and children
Bush likened volunteerism to a “thousand points of light” and creat- are abused and neglected, to rebuild America from the people point of
ed a foundation to promote it. Likewise, President George W. Bush, view. We can do that with a national service.” 2
in unveiling his own “Freedom Corps” proposal, called on Americans
to volunteer 4,000 hours of community service during their lifetimes. As president the following year, Clinton steered the National and
Some conservatives, however, have posed a false choice between pri- Community Service Trust Act, which created AmeriCorps, through
vate volunteerism and national service, disparaging the latter as Congress. Soon after the program was enacted, however, Republicans
“coerced volunteerism.” In fact, they are very different things. Unlike gained control of Congress and immediately set about to kill
occasional and diffuse acts of private volunteerism, national service AmeriCorps. Although Clinton managed to save the fledgling initia-
entails organized, disciplined, and focused efforts to tackle pressing tive, partisan enmity stunted its growth.
national problems that neither government nor markets can solve by GOP hostility toward national service, however, gradually waned as
themselves. Instead of myriad points of light, it shines a highly con- the program won acceptance in communities around the country and
centrated beam on stubborn social problems that don’t yield easily to from Republican mayors and governors. As chairman of the
bureaucratic solutions. Corporation for National and Community Service, former Sen. Harris
National service, moreover, isn’t simply a matter of altruism. Its Wofford (D-Pa.), labored tirelessly and effectively to win converts. After
purpose is to create new opportunities for citizens to help themselves the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, Bush proposed his
by helping others. It is a civic compact that says: Public benefits USA Freedom Corps initiative. It called both for expanding
should be linked to public service. In the best Madisonian tradition, AmeriCorps and encouraging private volunteerism, thus melding the
it fuses self-interest and civic responsibility rather than cultivating a New Democrats’ conception of full-time national service with the
patronizing spirit of noblesse oblige. Republicans’ emphasis on encouraging private volunteerism.
In January 1989, Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Charles Robb (D-Va.), A more recent proposal by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Evan
and Mikulski and Rep. David McCurdy (D-Okla.) introduced the Bayh (D-Ind.) to enlarge AmeriCorps to 250,000 volunteers per year
6 • THE AMERICORPS EXPERIMENT AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 7

also underscores the bipartisan convergence around national service. AmeriCorps VISTA
Fading ideological opposition to national service, in fact, means that Created in 1964, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) pro-
the federal government’s cascading fiscal crisis—massive budget vides nonprofit organizations and public agencies with full-time serv-
deficits and unfunded liabilities for Medicare and Social Security— ice members who help lift low-income Americans out of poverty.
probably poses the biggest obstacle to AmeriCorps’ growth. As VISTA was merged into AmeriCorps upon the latter’s creation, and
national service competes with more traditional programs for scarce it offers its members the same AmeriCorps benefits.
dollars, its advocates will have to prove that it can tackle certain pub-
lic needs more effectively. The place to start is with a critical assess- The federal law that created AmeriCorps also established the
ment of AmeriCorps’ first decade. Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an inde-
pendent agency that organizes and sustains federal service efforts.
AMERICORPS AT 10: AN OVERVIEW Although CNCS administers an array of service and civic programs,
AmeriCorps is its largest, with more than 60 percent of the corpora-
More than 400,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps since its tion’s $935 million budget for fiscal 2004 going toward either
founding, making it the largest civilian service program since the AmeriCorps State and National (34 percent), VISTA (10 percent),
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the 1930s. There are three NCCC (3 percent), or the National Service Trust (14 percent), in
types of AmeriCorps programs, all of which offer Americans 17 and which the corps members’ education awards are held (see Figure 1).3
older a subsistence stipend and the chance to earn an education award
of up to $4,725, in exchange for a year of full-time (defined as 1,700
hours) or sustained part-time national service.

AmeriCorps State and National
Created in 1993, AmeriCorps State and National is the largest and
most decentralized AmeriCorps program. It provides grants to organ-
izations that host full- and part-time corps members. Many are local
groups that are often overlooked by national agencies. With the goal
of reaching out to these organizations, most of the grants are distrib-
uted through governor-appointed state service commissions.

AmeriCorps NCCC
Created alongside AmeriCorps State and National, the NCCC
(National Civilian Community Corps) is a full-time, team-based res-
idential service program. Administered at the national level, it focus-
es on environmental issues and disaster relief. Corps members live
and train at five regional campuses, three of which are located on for-
mer military bases, and travel to areas in need throughout the year.
8 • THE AMERICORPS EXPERIMENT AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 9

State and National is by far the largest of AmeriCorps’ three pro- districts 12 percent, and private foundations 3 percent.6 The size of
grams, with 70,000 members expected in the 2005 class, compared the programs run by these organizations varies widely. Thirty-two
with 7,000 in VISTA and 1,187 in NCCC. The percentage of mem- percent host fewer than 15 corps members; 25 percent host between
bers serving full time in these programs has declined from 63 percent 16 and 25 members; 29 percent host between 26 and 50 members;
in 1995 to 51 percent today, while the total number of people serv- and 15 percent host more than 50 members.7
ing in AmeriCorps has tripled from 25,000 in 1995 to more than
75,000 today (see Figure 2).4 A DECADE OF EXPERIENCE

Over the past decade this far-flung network of service programs has
grown into a full-scale test of national service. Thanks to corps mem-
bers’ 10 years of hard work, we can finally ask what the evidence tells
us about this unique civic experiment’s future.
AmeriCorps’ creation was marked by sharp partisan and ideologi-
cal debate. But as we begin thinking about its future, we can shift the
discussion onto a firmer empirical footing. For opponents, skeptics,
and supporters alike, the crucial question is: Has AmeriCorps lived
up to its promise? We examine the existing evidence to determine
how closely AmeriCorps has come to achieving the four original goals
set by its supporters: (1) tackling unmet needs, (2) expanding oppor-
tunity, (3) bringing Americans together through service, and (4)
strengthening citizenship and civic enterprise.

Forty-three percent of the $274 million in grants distributed
through AmeriCorps State and National in 2004 went to governor-
appointed state service commissions on a competitive basis. Thirty-
five percent went to state commissions, tribal entities, and U.S. terri-
tories, using a population-based formula; and 22 percent was award-
ed directly by CNCS on a competitive basis to national nonprofits
operating in two or more states.5
Community-based nonprofits received 68 percent of the grant
funds, state and local agencies 17 percent, local schools and school
10 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 11

HAS AMERICORPS PROVEN EFFECTIVE conducted the two most comprehensive analyses of the work performed
IN TACKLING UNMET NATIONAL NEEDS? by AmeriCorps members, covering the periods 1994-96 and 1997-99.
The 1994-96 study examined 310 AmeriCorps programs representing
“For any national service program to work, it must perform tasks the work of 11,099 members, and the 1997-99 study looked at 533
that neither the marketplace nor the government programs representing the work of 13,297 members.
can provide. There is work to be done that remains undone Using a combination of project applications, reports to CNCS,
because there is no profit in it for the private sector member enrollment and exit forms, and an annual accomplishments
and the public sector cannot afford it.” review, Aguirre calculated that more than 9 million Americans bene-
fited from the work of the 1994-96 group of AmeriCorps members
—Charles C. Moskos, A Call to Civic Service, 1988 and that more than 17 million benefited from the work of the sec-
ond group.11
AmeriCorps’ potential to tackle important unmet national needs was These studies produced impressive-sounding statistics of members’
the main rationale offered for its creation. This focus on “getting things accomplishments, such as the following results from the 1994-96
done,” as AmeriCorps’ original motto put it, was central to the case study (reproduced in Appendix):
made by the program’s supporters. It also sits atop the list of priorities
of those who run AmeriCorps programs and those who serve in them. • Tutored, mentored, or counseled 212,239 students in grades one
In a survey of AmeriCorps members by the independent research firm to 12.
Abt Associates, “helping other people and serving my community” was
cited as a top goal by 58 percent of those entering the program.8 • Organized or packed 3,302,961 pounds of food and clothing,
Similarly, 60 percent of the directors of AmeriCorps programs cited benefiting 591,769 recently homeless people.
“providing needed services” as their top priority.9
Although program directors and members say they are in the business • Planted 22,455 trees in urban areas or rural towns and 80,727
of tackling important unmet needs, it is tough to gauge the degree to acres of trees in parklands.
which AmeriCorps actually does that. This is due largely to the wide
range of services that AmeriCorps provides, as well as its decentralized • Organized or conducted after-school sports and violence-avoid-
structure. Nevertheless, a number of studies shed light on the question. ance activities for 93,169 students.

MEASURING THE WORK PERFORMED Although its supporters often cite such statistics as evidence of
AmeriCorps’ effectiveness, the figures do not speak to the quality or
Most AmeriCorps programs work in one or more of five categories: value of the work performed. As such, their usefulness is limited.
education (51 percent of all programs), economic development (39
percent), public health (39 percent), job training (37 percent), and TESTIMONY FROM THE COMMUNITY
housing-related activities (29 percent).10
Documenting members’ work in detail is one way to assess whether Exploring community sentiment toward projects is one way to
AmeriCorps is tackling important national needs. Aguirre International measure the quality of AmeriCorps’ work. In its 1994-96 study,
12 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 13

Aguirre surveyed three to five community representatives who change” among participants in terms of homework completion, read-
worked closely with each AmeriCorps program that was examined. ing comprehension, academic behavior, parental involvement, and
They were drawn from partnering nonprofits, participating schools, educational aspirations.15
local government, and the pool of local beneficiaries. Program “H,” which was located in “a distressed and dangerous
Eighty-two percent of these representatives said the programs had inner-city area” and recruited local at-risk youth as AmeriCorps
an “outstanding” or “very good” impact on their community. Eighty- members to work in housing construction and renovation while
five percent said the same about project quality and 83 percent the obtaining their GEDs, ranked at the bottom. Researchers found it
same about the programs’ achievement of their stated goals and was disorganized, suffered from high attrition, and struggled to ful-
objectives.12 Significantly, the survey respondents said that fewer than fill its goals, both for the community and the participating youth. As
one in 10 AmeriCorps programs overlapped or conflicted with the a result, Aguirre concluded it had little beneficial impact.16
work carried out by other community organizations, which suggests Overall, Aguirre found that three of the eight programs had substan-
that the corps largely fulfilled its mission of addressing unmet needs.13 tial beneficial effects, four had moderate effects, and one had little or no
impact.17 In other words, seven of the eight programs examined (88 per-
A QUESTION OF EFFECTIVENESS cent) were judged to have had a well-documented substantial or mod-
erate direct impact on the direct beneficiaries of their service.
Aguirre randomly selected eight AmeriCorps programs as part of its
1994-96 study and examined them in depth over the course of a year EFFICACY STUDIES: A CLOSER LOOK AT EDUCATION
to gain a better understanding of their effectiveness. The sites select-
ed were geographically diverse and ranged in size from 10 to 70 mem- As mentioned, education is AmeriCorps’ largest service category,
bers. They included four national programs funded directly by with more than half of all programs involved in educational activi-
CNCS and four funded by state service commissions. Through direct ties.18 Researchers naturally have focused on the corps’ performance
observations of the service performed, interviews and focus groups in this area.
with beneficiaries, tests and other performance records, and the use of For example, the independent research firm Abt Associates con-
baseline measurement and control groups, Aguirre tried to measure ducted a comprehensive study of AmeriCorps’ education work as
the direct impact of AmeriCorps’ work on its beneficiaries.14 part of its assessment of the 1999 class.19 The firm examined 406
The evaluators rated the programs as having “substantial,” “moder- AmeriCorps organizations (hosting more than 10,000 corps mem-
ate,” or “little/no” beneficial impact. The ratings were based both on bers) that provided educational services, with an emphasis on the 360
the extent of the impact and the strength of the evidence of this programs that provided reading tutors.
impact (i.e., suggestive but weak positive evidence was recorded as In the study’s first stage, Abt examined the types of education pro-
having little or no effect). The letters “A” through “H” were substi- grams, the students they served, and the training that corps members
tuted for the names of the programs to protect their privacy. received. The firm found that community-based nonprofits spon-
Program “B,” an English as a Second Language (ESL) program sored almost two-thirds of the projects, with the others run by four-
involving 16 AmeriCorps members recruited from local universities, year colleges, community colleges, local school districts, and local
ranked at the top of the scale. Across numerous measures, Aguirre agencies.20 Children in grades one to three and four to six were the
found substantial evidence that the program produced “a great deal of largest groups served.21
14 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 15

In the second stage of the study, Abt randomly selected 68 pro- AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY OF PERFORMANCE
grams that tutored 869 first-, second-, and third-graders for an in-
depth examination of their impact. The students were tested both Teach for America is one of AmeriCorps’ largest education pro-
before and after the tutoring.22 grams, with 3,100 corps members in the 2003 class. It is also the sub-
The results showed that the students began the program well below ject of the first truly experimental research study of AmeriCorps’ per-
grade level but gained substantially against their peers by the end. formance.
This was true for all three grade levels studied. The gains were statis- Teach for America is a national nonprofit organization that recruits
tically significant and large enough to represent an important high-achieving recent college graduates to serve two-year stints in
improvement in the students’ reading abilities.23 Figure 3 represents hard-to-staff urban and rural schools. Applicants that make it
these shifts in terms of the students’ percentile rankings against the through Teach for America’s highly selective application process must
national average.24 Based on these results, Abt concluded that the stu- undergo an intensive five-week summer training program in teaching
dents improved in their reading performance from pre-test to post- practice, classroom management, learning theory, and leadership
test “more than the gain expected for the typical child at their grade before being sent to their assignments.
level.”25 Teach for America contracted with the independent research firm
Mathematica in 2001 to empirically test its members’ impact on
Figure 3. Abt Study: Change in Students’ Reading Scores students. Mathematica designed a study in which students in the
(as percentile rank) same schools and grades were randomly assigned to classrooms
taught by either Teach for America members or the schools’ veter-
Reading Skills Reading Comprehension an teachers. The evaluation was conducted in six of the 15 regions
Pre-test Post-test Pre-test Post-test in which Teach for America operates (Baltimore, Chicago, Los
First grade 38% 45% 38% 49%
Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Delta) with
students in math and reading classes in grades one through five.
Second grade 38 50 40 52
The final research sample contained 17 different schools and near-
Third grade 38 50 31 45
ly 2,000 students.27
The Mathematica study revealed that Teach for America provides
Interestingly, Abt found a great deal of variability in the programs hard-to-staff schools with new teachers with exceptionally strong
studied. While they yielded significant improvements in reading academic backgrounds. For example, while fewer than 4 percent of
scores on average, one in five programs produced no measurable gains the schools’ existing teachers graduated from colleges classified by
in either reading skills or comprehension. Nonetheless, one in 10 pro- Barron’s Profile of American Colleges as “most competitive,” “highly
duced student gains that were twice the average for AmeriCorps pro- competitive,” or “very competitive,” more than two-thirds of Teach
grams overall. Abt found that programs that required training for for America members graduated from such colleges. Further, the
their corps members both before and during tutoring, that required corps members in the 2003 class had an average SAT score of 1310
students to meet with tutors at least three times per week, and that and a collective 3.5 grade-point average. Ninety-two percent held
contained a formal system of evaluation were the ones most likely to leadership roles on their college campuses.28
have achieved outsized gains for their students.26 Despite lacking experience, corps members managed to raise their stu-
16 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 17

dents’ reading and math grades significantly. Their students’ gains in unmet needs requires an understanding of the program’s overall
math, for example, were larger than those achieved by the veteran teach- value—that is, the ratio of its costs to its benefits.
ers’ students by a statistically significant difference (see Figure 4).29 Cost-benefit analyses were initially used in the public sector to assess
the worth of public works projects. Over time, they have become an
essential tool for assessing a wide variety of government programs, pub-
lic-private partnerships, and governmental regulations.32
Aguirre International conducted the most extensive cost-benefit
analysis of AmeriCorps as part of its evaluation of the corps’ 1996
class. Aguirre examined a random sample of 44 AmeriCorps pro-
grams covering a wide range of service areas and containing 1,335
full-time-equivalent members. The firm identified three costs of run-
ning the programs: the education awards, the subsistence stipends
paid to AmeriCorps members, and the additional program operating
costs. These costs were paid for through a combination of funds from
CNCS, state and local governments, private foundations and indi-
viduals, and sponsor organizations, with CNCS’ share averaging two-
thirds of the total cost. Aguirre also identified four potential benefits
of AmeriCorps: the direct service benefits, future earnings from the
education awards, future earnings from the training provided, and
interest saved on student loan payments.
As Figure 5 shows, Aguirre found that the 44 programs cost about
$36.7 million, which worked out to an average $27,487 cost per full-
time member.33 Aguirre calculated that the value of direct service ben-
In fact, the difference in achievement gains by students taught by efits alone exceeded these costs, with a total value of about $37.2 mil-
AmeriCorps members was equal to an additional month of math lion for all 44 programs and an average of $27,855 per full-time-
instruction over the course of the year.30 Mathematica also found that equivalent AmeriCorps member. When the additional benefits to
Teach for America’s impact on students was equally positive for boys and AmeriCorps members were included, the corps’ total benefits greatly
girls, for high- and low-achieving students, for all ethnic and racial exceed its total running costs, with a net benefit of about $16.3 mil-
groups, and across all grades studied.31 lion for the 44 programs studied, or $12,196 in net benefits generat-
ed per full-time member. Aguirre concluded that for every $1 of pub-
COST-BENEFIT ASSESSMENTS lic and private funds invested in AmeriCorps, an additional $1.66 in
benefits was generated for the members and the communities in
While far from complete, the available evidence suggests that which they served. Aguirre deemed the AmeriCorps program “a suc-
AmeriCorps members are doing a wide range of important, effective cess” and concluded that because of the conservative estimates used
work. However, an informed judgment about their success in tackling to measure the programs’ benefits, it was likely that the 1.66-to-1
18 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 19

benefit-cost ratio “understates the total impact of AmeriCorps on hood restoration. As can be seen in Figure 6, all seven studies found
AmeriCorps members and America’s communities.”34 that AmeriCorps generates benefits in excess of its costs, with the
benefit-cost ratios varying from a low of 1.23 to a high of 3.90,
Figure 5. Aguirre Study: Costs and Benefits resulting in an average ratio of 1.95.36
of 44 AmeriCorps Programs Such findings strongly support the conclusion that AmeriCorps
provides a good return on federal, state and local, and private invest-
Per Full-Time
Equivalent Total
ment. By way of comparison, a meta-analysis of cost-benefit studies
Costs of non-AmeriCorps service programs by Indiana University
Member stipends $9,894 $13,204,215 Professors James L. Perry and Ann Marie Thomson found that these
Education awards 4,725 6,306,127 programs on average had a benefit-cost ratio of only 1.30, with long-
Program costs 12,868 17,173,866 standing programs such as the Foster Grandparents senior service
Total Costs $27,487 $36,684,208 program achieving a ratio of just 1.14.37

Direct service benefits $27,855 $37,176,642 Figure 6. Seven Cost-Benefit Studies of AmeriCorps
Future earnings from education 7,360 9,822,428
Future earnings from training 2,878 3,841,459 Study Size Years Benefit-Cost Ratio
Student loan interest saved 1,590 2,122,462
Neumann, et al. 3 programs 1994-95 1.50 - 2.20
Total Benefits $39,683 $52,962,991
Shumer 3 programs 1994-95 1.23 - 3.90
Benefits less Costs +$12,196 +$16,278,783
Wang, Owens, & Kim 2 programs 1994-95 1.80 - 2.40
Aguirre International 44 programs 1994-96 1.66
Shumer and Cady 3 programs 1995-96 1.34 - 2.15
While AmeriCorps programs’ benefits far exceeded their costs, on
Shumer and Rentel 3 programs 1996-97 1.65 - 2.45
average, Aguirre also found a great deal of variability among the 44
programs studied. On the one hand, although 58 percent of the pro- Abt Associates 3 programs 1998-99 1.67

grams had a benefit-to-cost ratio greater than 1.0, the other 42 per- Average 1.95

cent had a ratio below 1.0. On the other hand, 21 percent had a ben-
efit-to-cost ratio greater than 2.0, suggesting that for every $1 spent,
they returned more than $2 in benefits.35 SUMMARY
In total, seven independent cost-benefit analyses of AmeriCorps
have been conducted in its first decade, with most studies looking at While far from conclusive, research to date suggests that
two or three programs at a time. These studies have assessed a diverse AmeriCorps is indeed tackling unmet national needs. It is perform-
sample of AmeriCorps programs, covering the full range of service ing a tremendous amount of work, community representatives say
areas, including literacy promotion, conservation, crime reduction, the work is valuable and not duplicative, and multiple studies suggest
substance-abuse counseling, housing construction, and neighbor- the work is successful and cost-effective.
20 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 21

That being said, there are still large gaps in our understanding of HAS AMERICORPS EXPANDED OPPORTUNITY
AmeriCorps’ effectiveness. While much research has been done on its FOR THOSE WHO SERVED?
impact on education, less is known about its effect on public health
and economic development, and other major areas of its work. Far “Empowerment means challenging our students
more experimental research comparable to the study of Teach for and every American with a system of voluntary national service.
America’s impact on students must be conducted before we can begin In a Clinton administration we will offer a domestic GI Bill that
to generalize such findings to AmeriCorps as a whole. will say to middle-class as well as low-income people: We want you
Finally, policymakers should press for more program evaluations, in to go to college and we're glad to pay for it, but you've got to give
light of the consistent finding of great variability in the programs’ something back to your country in return.”
effectiveness. CNCS and state service commissions need to be able to
identify high achievers so that they can be taken to scale and low —Bill Clinton, “A New Covenant for Economic Change,”
achievers so that their grant money can be redistributed. Georgetown University, 1992

The idea of enlisting the nation’s youth to serve their country has
proven remarkably durable, resurfacing every few decades since it was
first proposed at the turn of the 19th century. One element that
made the AmeriCorps proposal unique was the degree to which it
linked public benefits (chiefly college aid) to public service. Seeking
to strike a new balance between citizen rights and responsibilities, in
the late 1980s, proponents such as the Democratic Leadership
Council and sociologist Charles Moskos offered detailed blueprints
for transforming national service into the main pathway to college for
America’s youth.38
Bill Clinton’s campaign pledge to create a new domestic GI Bill
grounded in domestic civilian service built on this philosophy of
reciprocity. However, the final program that emerged in 1993
through a series of compromises with veterans’ groups and
Congress contained an education award less than half the size first
proposed. It also contained too few slots per year to make
AmeriCorps the main pathway to college. Nonetheless, the inclu-
sion of a smaller ($4,725) education award, along with a greater
emphasis on skills and training, assured that expanding opportuni-
ty for its members would remain a top priority for AmeriCorps. It
would provide an early test of this crucial element of the national
service model.
22 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 23

ENTRY FIGURES AND COMPLETION RATES asked how important the award
was for achieving their education-
According to an Abt Associates study of more than 2,000 members al goals, 73 percent said it was
of the 2000 AmeriCorps class, at the time of enrollment AmeriCorps “necessary.” Eighteen percent
members were more likely to have a high school diploma and slight- described the award as not neces-
ly more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than the average 18- to 24- sary, but something that would
year-old. However, despite their above-average level of educational make it easier to achieve their
attainment, fewer than one in three of the corps members had grad- goals, and just 4 percent said they
uated from college at the time of enrollment.39 Clearly, AmeriCorps did not need the award.44
offers more than two-thirds of its recruits the possibility of serving as Statistics on members’ actual use
a pathway to college or as a means to help ensure they have the of the awards reveal similar pat-
resources to complete their education. terns. Because AmeriCorps mem-
Corps members, of course, must earn their education awards before bers have seven years after com-
they can put them to use. Doing so requires completing the program, pleting the program to use their
which 74 percent of AmeriCorps members did during the corps’ first education awards, figures are
decade. This completion rate has varied somewhat over the years, available only for the first four
with rates declining slightly from 75 percent in the program’s first AmeriCorps classes. These data
year to 67 percent by 1999, before climbing steadily toward the most show that full award use has
recent completion rate of 82 percent for the 2004 class.40 These rates grown from 68 percent to 75 per-
are comparable to or higher than those of the armed forces, which in cent for the first four classes,
2000 had completion rates varying from 75 percent for two-year which have been out of Ameri-
terms of service to just 51 percent for five- and six-year terms.41 Corps seven years or longer, trends
According to a survey by Abt Associates, more than two-thirds of that correspond with the roughly three of four AmeriCorps members
corps members who failed to complete the program cited health, per- who say the award is necessary.45 AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps
sonal, or financial reasons. Only 4 percent were asked to leave.42 NCCC members have slightly higher usage rates (80 percent and 84
percent, respectively).46 Overall, the average AmeriCorps usage rate is
EDUCATION AWARD PLANS AND USAGE similar to that of armed forces veterans under the original GI Bill (80
percent) and considerably higher than that of Army reservists using the
Exploring members’ plans for the education award is one of the best Montgomery GI Bill during the 1980s (47 percent).47
ways to understand the award’s role in advancing upward mobility. In its
baseline survey of 2,000 members from the 2000 class, Abt Associates EFFECT ON COLLEGE ATTENDANCE RATES
found that 51 percent of members planned to use the award to pay for
future college expenses, 18 percent to pay for graduate school, 8 percent The education award’s proponents hoped it would encourage peo-
to pay off existing loans, and 5 percent to pay for job training. Only 18 ple to go to college who otherwise would not. The evidence on
percent said they had no plans for the award (see Figure 7).43 When whether it has done so is mixed.
24 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 25

Consider early findings from Abt Associates’ longitudinal study of percent at enrollment), and 40 percent had a bachelor’s degree (up
the long-term impact of service in AmeriCorps on members’ civic from 30 percent at enrollment).51
engagement, education, employment, and life skills.48 In this study, To understand what role participation in AmeriCorps might have
Abt compared 2,228 full-time members of AmeriCorps’ 2000 class played in this increase, Abt compared the educational progress of
with 1,925 young people who had requested information about join- AmeriCorps members and the control group three years after the
ing but did not actually do so or were prevented from enrolling baseline. Looking only at individuals who had not obtained a bache-
because of space limitations. lor’s degree by the start of the study, Abt found that three years later,
More than two-thirds of the class of 2000 said their experience in 66 percent of those who had served in AmeriCorps and 69 percent
AmeriCorps made them more likely to continue their education.49 of those in the control group were either in pursuit of or had com-
However, when Abt compared the change in AmeriCorps members’ pleted a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, a statistically insignificant dif-
confidence in their ability to obtain an education against the control ference. Since the control group had three years to pursue a degree
group, it found that the effect of serving in AmeriCorps, while posi- while AmeriCorps members had only two, due to their year of serv-
tive, was not statistically significant (see Figure 8).50 In terms of ice, Abt concluded that the “positive impacts of AmeriCorps may
changes in members’ actual levels of educational attainment, Abt become more evident after additional time has passed.”52
found that three years after entering the program, 95 percent of for-
mer AmeriCorps members had a high school diploma (up from 92 TRAINING, SKILLS, AND EMPLOYMENT

While the evidence about AmeriCorps’ effect on educational
attainment is mixed, it is much more conclusive about the program’s
training and personal development aspects.
In its survey of 108 AmeriCorps programs in 2000, Abt Associates
found that the average program devoted about eight days during the
year to member training, with 14 percent offering six weeks or
more.53 Programs devoted the most time to team-building (offered by
96 percent of programs for an average of 24 hours per year), service-
related skills training (offered by 80 percent of programs for an aver-
age of 40 hours per year), and leadership training (offered by 76 per-
cent of programs for an average of 17 hours per year). Twenty-two
percent offered college classes or other formal educational training.54
In addition, 95 percent of programs offered members workshops
on making the transition into professional careers or higher educa-
tion, with about two-thirds offering a full-day workshop or more on
these issues.55 In its survey of AmeriCorps members who completed
the program, Abt found that 61 percent were “very satisfied” with the
new skills they had learned and nearly all (97 percent) believed their
26 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 27

chances of finding a job had improved “quite a bit” or “a great deal” average, participation in AmeriCorps had a positive and statistically
as a result of their year of service.56 Perhaps most importantly, when significant effect across all five measures of members’ life skills. These
Abt compared the changes in the AmeriCorps members’ basic work positive results were found across ethnic groups and were the most
skills (such as gathering and analyzing information, motivating co- substantial for those with the least developed skills at the time of their
workers, and managing time) and their acceptance of personal entry into the program.58
responsibility for their own employment success against the control
group, it found that service in AmeriCorps produced positive, statis- SUMMARY
tically significant effects (see Figure 9).57
The evidence suggests that AmeriCorps has supported key factors
linked to expanded opportunity, but perhaps not to the degree that
many advocates of national service had hoped. On the plus side,
AmeriCorps has succeeded in recruiting a cross-section of Americans
interested in using the education award to pay for college and
ensured that the vast majority of members completed the program
and made use of their awards. However, the evidence to date suggests
that AmeriCorps members are no more likely to go to college than

Such findings support earlier ones from Aguirre International’s
study of the 1996 AmeriCorps class. In that study, Aguirre researchers
compared 382 AmeriCorps members with 732 individuals who did
not participate in the program. Aguirre administered a Life Skills
Inventory (LSI) test before and after the term of service to both
groups, assessing their aptitudes in communication, leadership, ana-
lytical problem-solving, organization and management, and comput-
er and mathematical skills. This longitudinal study found that, on
28 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 29

their peers. At the same time, the evidence does suggest that serving HAS AMERICORPS BROUGHT AMERICANS
in AmeriCorps enhances members’ basic work skills and sense of per- FROM ALL BACKGROUNDS TOGETHER
sonal responsibility. IN A COMMON SERVICE EXPERIENCE?
It is too early to make definitive judgments about the program’s per-
formance in these respects. However, given the steep erosion in the “I believe that this national service project has the capacity …
buying power of the $4,725 education award (which declined from to make us believe we don’t have anybody to waste, to make us
covering nearly two years in tuition and fees at a public university in believe we are all in this together, to give us a chance to reach across
1994 to covering less than a year in 2004), it appears that, with regard racial and income lines to work together.”
to the program’s educational aspects, time may not be on
AmeriCorps’ side (see Figure 10).59 —Bill Clinton, quoted in Steven Waldman’s The Bill, 1995

AmeriCorps’ architects argued that a program that brought
Americans from all backgrounds
together to tackle urgent national
challenges would be a tonic for
civic afflictions that have plagued
the country since the 1960s. Over
the past 10 years, AmeriCorps has
put this idea to the test.


Statistics indicate that Ameri-
Corps has indeed assembled a
racial and ethnic cross-section of
the American people. Forty-one
percent of its members are white,
25 percent African-American, and
24 percent Hispanic. American
Indians (4 percent), Asian-
Americans (2 percent), Pacific
Islanders (1 percent), and multira-
cial Americans (3 percent) make
up the rest (see Figure 11).60
30 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 31

AmeriCorps is also diverse in terms of economic class. Although its There is a big difference, of course, between the potential to build
members are more likely than the overall population to have graduated bridges and actual bridge building, and at least one study suggests that
from high school and college, 85 percent come from either working- or AmeriCorps may be missing the mark in this regard. In its survey of a
middle-class families, with just 7 percent drawn from the upper class representative sample of 108 AmeriCorps programs, Abt Associates dis-
(see Figure 12). covered that only two out of five AmeriCorps programs bring members
In fact, AmeriCorps members’ average household income is just from different backgrounds together to work in groups.62 In fact, two-
$32,683, only 63 percent of the national average. AmeriCorps, how- thirds of all corps members serve alone at their service sites. Thus, while
ever, is not representative of the American people in terms of gender: 76 percent of all AmeriCorps programs offer members diversity train-
Women make up more than 70 percent of the corps. ing, most members may not have regular access to meaningful cross-cul-
tural opportunities that come from the service experience itself.63
To better understand AmeriCorps’ diversity at the local level, Macro
International surveyed 420 programs in the 1996 AmeriCorps class AmeriCorps members vary greatly in their knowledge of different
about their members’ race and ethnicity. Macro found that about 24 racial and ethnic groups and economic classes. For example, while
percent of the programs were about three-quarters of members at the time of their entry reported
highly diverse (defined as the having a great or moderate amount of knowledge about people with
largest racial and ethnic group low incomes, and about half reported having such knowledge of
making up less than 55 percent of African-Americans, only about two in five said the same about
total membership). Forty-six per- Hispanics, and less than one in five said the same about Asian-
cent were deemed moderately Americans.64
diverse (defined as the largest Macro International conducted the most in-depth examination of
group making up between 55 the effect of service on AmeriCorps members’ attitudes about diver-
percent and 84 percent of mem- sity in 1997. While 88 percent of the members said they were com-
bership), and 30 percent were fortable interacting with people from different backgrounds, 64 per-
rated as having a low level of cent said they socialized primarily with members of the same race or
diversity (defined as the largest ethnicity. Another 59 percent reported they socialized mainly with
group making up more than 84 members of the same economic class. Most strikingly, only 38 per-
percent of membership). In other cent “agreed” or “agreed strongly” that more can be accomplished
words, the study suggests that when team members are from diverse backgrounds.67
more than two-thirds of all Nevertheless, Macro also found that 75 percent agreed or agreed
AmeriCorps programs are suffi- strongly that their program promoted respect for diversity, and 62
ciently diverse to potentially build percent said the same about promoting understanding of different
bridges among members from backgrounds. More importantly, 54 percent agreed or agreed strong-
different backgrounds.61 ly that since joining the program they were more likely to initiate
32 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 33

contact with people from different backgrounds. About half of all HAS AMERICORPS STRENGTHENED CITIZENSHIP
members said racial or ethnic differences were the most common AND CIVIC ENTERPRISE?
sources of difficulty in working together in the program. An addition-
al one in four cited class differences as sources of difficulty, with the “National service would enhance the role of ordinary citizens in
remainder mentioning either gender or religion. solving our nation’s problems. It would buttress the local civic and
Early results from Abt Associates’ longitudinal study of the 2000 community resources that act as intermediaries between the citizen
AmeriCorps class suggests that service had a positive but statistically and the nation. In this way will citizens be encouraged, in
insignificant effect on members’ opinions about “the importance and Tocqueville’s phrase, to ‘practice the art of government within the
desirability of relationships between people who do not share the small sphere within their reach.’”
same cultural and/or ethnic backgrounds.” It had a similarly mild
positive effect on the frequency with which members participated in —Will Marshall, Citizenship and National Service, 1988
constructive group interactions in which conflicts were resolved and
new ideas shared. When one of us wrote that 17 years ago, AmeriCorps was still
more than half a decade away from recruiting its first members.
SUMMARY However, the push was already well under way to find new ways
for government to partner with local groups that have a better
The evidence gathered to date suggests that AmeriCorps is recruit- grasp of local problems. AmeriCorps’ decentralized model of
ing an economically and racially diverse corps overall and that most national service is grounded in the civic republican belief that gov-
local programs are sufficiently diverse to build bridges among groups. ernment can accomplish little lasting social good without the per-
Unfortunately, the data also suggest that AmeriCorps is not making sonal commitment of an active, educated, and self-reliant citizen-
full use of this potential. ry. It seeks to maximize citizen involvement and civic experimen-
As noted, 60 percent of AmeriCorps programs do not deploy their tation. AmeriCorps has been translating these principles into prac-
members in teams, which lessens opportunities to bond through tice for 10 years now, generating a wide range of data for closer
shared experiences. Even when they do use teams, research suggests inspection.
that many program directors fail to facilitate social interactions across
class and race lines. Nevertheless, research demonstrates that about LEVERAGING VOLUNTEERS
one-third of AmeriCorps programs are building bridges through a
common service experience. Policymakers should strive to replicate Many supporters of national service argue that the time
these success stories.68 AmeriCorps members spend recruiting and organizing community
volunteers is as valuable as the work they perform individually. These
activities can act as a force multiplier and promote a greater sense of
community spirit and solidarity.
Data from Abt Associates’ longitudinal study of the 2000
AmeriCorps class show that 64 percent of corps members had a sub-
stantial or occasional role in recruiting volunteers. This figure rough-
34 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 35

ly corresponds with Abt’s finding that about two-thirds of served. Overall, 78 percent of the representatives said the programs
AmeriCorps programs used such volunteers.69 had an “outstanding” or “very good” impact on the community. Sixty
Aguirre International’s survey of AmeriCorps’ 1996 class found percent said the same about members mobilizing the community,
that, on average, each AmeriCorps member helped recruit, train, or and 57 percent said the same about members helping community
organize an additional 16 unpaid volunteers during his or her year of organizations work better together.73
service. These volunteers, in turn, performed an additional 246 hours Some of this success may be due to the fact that 76 percent of
of service.70 Aguirre’s broader study of the 1995 and 1996 classes AmeriCorps members come from the communities in which they
found that these volunteers were drawn primarily from the commu- serve.74 Programs’ emphasis on making the best possible use of all
nities in which members served and often included the parents of available community resources may be another factor. According to
children who benefited from AmeriCorps projects. Most often, these Abt Associates’ survey of 108 AmeriCorps programs, 72 percent for-
volunteers worked alongside AmeriCorps members in health fairs, mally train members about available resources in the communities
tutoring, housing construction, labor-intensive environmental proj- they serve.75 In a survey of a representative sample of more than 2,000
ects, and similar activities. The volunteers often participated in only members, Abt found that 84 percent of AmeriCorps members were
one or two specific events or contributed a few hours at a time “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the gains they made dur-
throughout the year. Aguirre concluded that AmeriCorps projects ing their year of service in understanding the community in which
that used volunteers “received more participation from those who they worked. Ninety percent “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they
actually benefited from these services, less resistance from the com- “felt like part of the community” during their year of service.76
munity, and more interest from members to develop their own AmeriCorps’ work with faith-based organizations to enhance local
skills.”71 civic capacity has received much attention in recent years. According
to the CNCS’ latest annual report, 14 percent of the organizations to
BUILDING COMMUNITY which it awards grants have a faith-based mission.77 Twenty-one per-
cent of the groups AmeriCorps NCCC worked with in 2004 had
AmeriCorps members also can strengthen communities by expand- such missions. Examples include restoring facilities and leading a
ing local civic institutions’ capacity to effect change. A 1999 study by conflict resolution curriculum for students with Efforts of Grace in
Aguirre International found that corps members were most often put Louisiana, operating stores and collecting and sorting food with the
to work expanding or improving existing services (43 percent) or Salvation Army in Tennessee, and recruiting volunteers and building
helping existing organizations create new services for their communi- homes for low-income families with Habitat for Humanity nation-
ties (40 percent). Only 17 percent of AmeriCorps members were used wide.78
to create new community groups. Perhaps due to this focus on exist-
ing organizations and services, Aguirre found little (just 8 percent) PROMOTING AN ETHIC OF SERVICE
overlap or conflict between AmeriCorps members’ activities and work
carried out by other community groups.72 To understand the role AmeriCorps plays in promoting an ethic of
Aguirre surveyed community representatives, as part of its assess- service, it is important to examine the kinds of people who are attract-
ment of the 1995 and 1996 AmeriCorps classes, to gauge members’ ed to AmeriCorps in the first place. In its longitudinal study of
impact on the community and the organizations in which they AmeriCorps members, Abt Associates found that individuals joining
36 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 37

AmeriCorps were more civically
Figure 13. Pre-service Civic engaged at the time of their entry
Engagement of AmeriCorps into the program than most
Members Americans. They were far more
Ameri- National likely than the general population
Corps Population
to be registered to vote, to have
Registered to vote 84% 64% actually voted in the last election,
Voted in last election 72 55 to have been active in a communi-
Active in ty or religious group, to have par-
community group 68 63
ticipated in student government,
Was active in
student government 30 22 and to have donated time in
Donated time response to 9/11 (see Figure 13).79
in response to 9/11 18 11 Abt researchers measured the
long-term influence of serving in
AmeriCorps by looking at both
corps members and members of a
control group, none of whom were
active in their communities before
the study began. Abt found that in the corps enhances a member’s connection (defined as attachment,
among these disengaged youth, awareness, and commitment) to his or her community by a statisti-
those who served in AmeriCorps cally significant amount (see Figure 15).82 Abt found that serving in
were nearly 2.5 times more likely AmeriCorps similarly enhanced an individual’s sense of civic duty
(43 percent versus 18 percent) (defined as belief in the obligation to participate in one’s communi-
than the others to have volun- ty, to vote, and to serve on a jury),83 and belief in the effectiveness of
teered in their communities three grassroots activities such as after-school programs and park cleanups.
years after their terms in the corps Abt also found that service bolstered individuals’ ability to identify
ended (see Figure 14).80 Ameri- community problems, the strength of their sense of obligation to
Corps members also were more their neighborhood, their belief in personal and local civic effective-
likely to be employed in public ness, and their level of community activity.85
service jobs (40 percent versus 33
percent).81 SUMMARY
Abt’s longitudinal study also
suggests that service had a posi- AmeriCorps’ first decade has yielded solid evidence that a decen-
tive impact on members’ civic tralized model of national service strengthens citizenship and pro-
attitudes and behaviors. Serving motes civic enterprise. The majority of AmeriCorps members recruit-
38 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 39

ed and organized community volunteers, enhanced the capacity of CONCLUSION
the organizations in which they served, and came away from the
experience with a greater sense of civic duty, a stronger connection to Is AmeriCorps living up to its promise? It is hard to answer that
their communities, and a passion for grassroots-led community prob- question definitively based on available research. This experiment in
lem-solving. More than any other element of national service, the national service has exceeded expectations in some respects, fallen
focus on citizenship and civic enterprise has been a clear success. short in others; in a few areas, we still do not have enough evidence
to make a judgment.
On what we regard as the single most important measure—
whether national service is meeting real public needs in a cost-
effective way—the evidence is positive and persuasive. Studies
indicate that AmeriCorps’ programs are performing a wide variety
of work that addresses unmet community needs. The evidence
also suggests that most programs are meeting their stated goals
and generating public benefits well in excess of their cost to tax-
In addition, the evidence suggests that AmeriCorps is bolstering its
members’ basic work skills and sense of personal responsibility, eas-
ing college costs for volunteers who complete their service, recruiting
a diverse corps at both the national and grassroots levels, enhancing
communities’ civic capacity, and increasing members’ civic engage-
ment after they leave the program.
An objective review of the available research provides little support
for the most common criticisms made by AmeriCorps’ opponents.
The evidence directly refutes claims that AmeriCorps engages its
members in make-work jobs, wastes public dollars by providing a
poor return on investment in it, and is made up only of young peo-
ple from well-off families.
However, the evidence also suggests that AmeriCorps has fallen
short of its original goals in two key areas. First, although most
AmeriCorps members use their education awards, research indicates
that service in the corps does not increase individuals’ educational
attainment, at least in the short run. Second, while most AmeriCorps
programs are diverse, the evidence suggests that most members spend
most of their year of service interacting mainly with members of their
own ethnic, racial, and economic groups.
40 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 41

Our review raises several unanswered questions, including these: APPENDIX

• Does serving in AmeriCorps have a significant long-term effect Below are results from Aguirre International’s 1994-96 examina-
on educational attainment? tion of the work performed in 310 AmeriCorps programs, represent-
ing the service of 11,099 members. Aguirre’s researchers document-
• What percentage of AmeriCorps programs would yield positive ed that over the course of their year of service these corps members:
outcomes for the people they serve if tested in an independent
experimental study? Education

• What are the defining characteristics of the most successful pro- • Taught 381,592 students in Head Start, kindergarten, and grades
grams? one to 12.

• What are the long-term effects of relationships across racial, eth- • Tutored, mentored, or counseled 212,239 students in grades one
nic, and class boundaries on corps members after their year of to 12.
• Organized speakers, presentations, field trips, or service-learning
Further research should be conducted to deepen our understanding activities for 672,981 students.
of the program. But we know enough to say that national service is
off to a good start, and AmeriCorps provides a solid foundation for • Recruited, trained, or placed 145,168 peer tutors and communi-
expanding national service in the years ahead. ty volunteers.

• Developed curricula, assembled library collections, or provided
instructional materials for 717,640 students.

• Performed educational case management or conducted home vis-
its for 138,151 students and their families.

• Taught parenting skills workshops, GED classes, or job counsel-
ing workshops for 58,363 parents.

Health and Human Needs

• Constructed, rehabilitated, or renovated 1,485 low-income
houses and provided housing assistance for an additional
22,843 people.
42 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 43

• Completed 60 new homeless shelters benefiting 1,422 people • Weatherized or winterized homes for 10,767 people in need and
and placed an additional 18,687 homeless people in permanent provided emergency assistance to an additional 8,309 individuals.
or transitional housing.
• Established 1,824 neighborhood gardens, organized 3,544
• Organized or packed 3,302,961 pounds of food and clothing, neighborhood clean-ups, and coordinated neighborhood redevel-
benefiting 591,769 recently homeless people. opment events attended by 1,590 businesses.

• Organized or staffed community health fairs attended by Public Safety
1,505,773 people.
• Organized 887 neighborhood watches, recruited 9,511 child or
• Provided child care for 42,926 children and their families. senior escorts, and started 282 community policing programs.

• Immunized 30,724 children and 4,833 adults. • Organized or conducted after-school sports and violence-avoid-
ance activities for 93,169 students.
• Screened, counseled, or provided health information and services
to 1,384,612 children and adults. • Conducted 3,371 conflict mediation and resolution programs.

• Recruited and coordinated 64,881 volunteers in support of these • Provided career development and community integration services
health and human needs projects. for 5,346 adjudicated youth and 906 adults on probation.

Environmental and Neighborhood Restoration • Counseled 29,352 individuals about substance abuse and 74,421
individuals about victims’ rights or child abuse prevention.
• Rehabilitated or repaired 315 community buildings and 1,838
miles of park trails and roads. • Worked with 851 community groups to establish better relations
and improve communication across racial and ethnic lines.
• Planted 22,455 trees in urban areas or rural towns and 80,727
acres of trees in parklands.

• Restored or conserved 3,061 miles of rivers, beaches, and fish
habitats and 90,729 acres or public lands and fowl habitat.

• Repaired 266 dams or other flood-control systems and respond-
ed to 494 forest fires and search-and-rescue missions.
44 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 45

ENDNOTES Aguirre International, 1999, Making a Difference: Impact of Ameri-

Corps*State/National Direct on Members and Communities 1994-95 and 1995-96,
Moskos, Charles C., 1988, A Call to Civic Service: National Service for Washington: Corporation for National Service, p. 84.
Country and Community, New York: Free Press.
Ibid., p. v.
Bill Clinton’s address to the Democratic National Committee as quoted in
Waldman, Steven, 1996, The Bill: How Legislation Really Becomes Law: A Case
Ibid., p. 39.
Study of the National Service Bill, Revised and Updated, New York: Penguin
Books, p. 6.
Ibid., pp. 46-47.

Corporation for National and Community Service, 2004, Performance and
Ibid., pp. 59-60.
Accountability Report, Fiscal Year 2004, Washington: Corporation for National and
Community Service, p. A-76.
Ibid., p. 39.

Ibid., p. D-259.
Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National and
Ibid., p. B-99. Community Service, p. 17.

Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal
Abt Associates Inc., 1999, Descriptive Study of AmeriCorps Literacy Programs:
Study of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for State and National, Washington: Corporation for National Service, and Abt
National and Community Service, p. K-2. Associates Inc., 2001, AmeriCorps Tutoring Outcomes Study, Washington:
Corporation for National Service.
Abt Associates Inc., 1999, Descriptive Study of AmeriCorps Literacy Programs:
Abt Associates Inc., 2001, Serving Country and Community: A Study of Service State and National, Washington: Corporation for National Service, p. 22.
in AmeriCorps. A Profile of AmeriCorps Members at Baseline, Washington:
Corporation for National Service, p. 10.
Ibid., pp. 3-4.

Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Abt Associates Inc., 2001, AmeriCorps Tutoring Outcomes Study, Washington:

Study of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for Corporation for National Service, pp. 6-8.
National and Community Service, p. 16.
Ibid., p. 27.
Ibid., p. 17.
Aguirre International, 1999, Making a Difference: Impact of Ameri-
Corps*State/National Direct on Members and Communities 1994-95 and 1995-
Ibid., pp. 25-28.
96, Washington: Corporation for National Service, and Aguirre International,
1999, AmeriCorps*State/National Direct Five Year Evaluation Report,
Ibid., pp. 36-37.
Washington: Corporation for National Service.
46 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 47

Decker, Paul T., Daniel P. Mayer, Steven Glazerman, 2004, The Effects of Teach Perry, James L. and Ann Marie Thomson, 2004, Civic Service: What Difference

for America on Students: Findings from a National Study, Princeton, N.J.: Does It Make?, New York: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 86-89.
Mathematica Policy Research, p. xi-xii.
Moskos, Charles C., 1988, A Call to Civic Service: National Service for Country
Ibid., p. 1. and Community, New York: The Free Press, and Marshall, Will, 1988, Citizenship
and National Service: A Blueprint for Civic Enterprise, Washington: Democratic
Ibid., p. xvi. Leadership Council.

Ibid., pp. xiv. 39
Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National
Ibid., p. xv. and Community Service, p. 25.

For more information about the history of cost-benefit analyses see Gramlich,
32 40
For 1995-2000, completion percentage equals cumulative number of mem-
Edward M., Benefit-Cost Analysis of Government Programs, 1981, Englewood Cliffs, bers who earned an award, divided by the total members enrolled. For 2001-
N.J.: Prentice-Hall. 2004, completion percentage equals cumulative number of members who
earned an award, divided by the total members enrolled minus members still
Aguirre International, 1999, AmeriCorps*State/National Direct Five Year earning or not exited. Authors’ calculations based on data presented in
Evaluation Report, Washington: Corporation for National Service, p. 141-160. Corporation for National and Community Service, 2004, Performance and
Accountability Report, Fiscal Year 2004, Washington: Corporation for National
Ibid., p. 151. and Community Service, p. D-264.

Ibid., p. 146. 41
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, “Population Representation in the
Military Services: Fiscal Year 2000.” Percentages given for non-prior service of 18-
The seven studies are: (1) Neuman et al., 1995, The Benefits and Costs of
to 24-year-old enlistees. Cited in Magee, Marc, and Steven J. Nider, 2003, Uncle
National Service: Methods for Benefit Assessment with Application to Three Sam Wants You! … For 18 Months, Policy Report, Washington: Progressive Policy
AmeriCorps Programs. Funding: Charles A. Dana Foundation; IBM Institute.
Foundation; James Irvine Foundation; Youth Service California. (2) Shumer,
1996, YouthWorks/AmeriCorps Evaluation: A Cost-Benefit Analysis, 42
Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
Minneapolis: College of Education and Human Development, University of of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National
Minnesota. (3) Wang, Owens, and Kim, 1995, A Cost and Benefit Study of and Community Service, p. 33.
Two AmeriCorps Projects in the State of Washington, Portland, Ore.:
Northwest Regional Education Laboratory. (4) Aguirre International, 1999, 43
Abt Associates Inc., 2001, Serving Country and Community: A Study of Service in
AmeriCorps*State/National Direct Five Year Evaluation Report: A Follow-Up, AmeriCorps. A Profile of AmeriCorps Members at Baseline, Washington: Corporation
Washington: Corporation for National Service. (5) Shumer and Cady, 1997, for National Service.
YouthWorks/AmeriCorps Evaluation: Second Year Report, 1995-1996,
Minneapolis: College of Education and Human Development, University of 44
Minnesota. (6) Shumer and Rentel, 1998, YouthWorks/AmeriCorps
Evaluation: Third Year Report, 1996-1997, Minneapolis: College of 45
Corporation for National and Community Service, 2004, Performance and
Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. (7) Abt Accountability Report, Fiscal Year 2004, Washington: Corporation for National and
Associates, 2000, Evaluation of the Washington Service Corps: Final Report, Community Service, p. B-102.
Cambridge, Mass.
48 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Has AmeriCorps Lived Up to Its Promise? • 49

Ibid., pp. B-114 and B-123. Board, p. 8, See also, Corporation for National and
Community Service, 2004, Performance and Accountability Report, Fiscal Year 2004,
WWII data in “AmeriCorps Comes Up Short,” Nov. 9, 1998, USA Today. Washington: Corporation for National and Community Service, p. A-41.
Army Reserve data in Gray, M.J., R.F. Schoeni, and T. Kaganoff, National
Service: Designing, Implementing, and Evaluating a Successful Program, Rand Abt Associates Inc., 2001, AmeriCorps Tutoring Outcomes Study, Washington:

Issue Paper, Washington. Both cited in Perry, James L., et al., “Inside the Corporation for National Service, p. 11.
Swiss Army Knife: An Assessment of AmeriCorps,” Journal of Public
Administration Research and Theory, April 1999, pp. 225-250. Macro International Inc., 1997, Study of Race, Class, and Ethnicity, Final Report,

Washington: Corporation for National Service.
Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National and 62
Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
Community Service. of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National
and Community Service, p. K-2.
Ibid., p. 37.
Ibid., p. 21.
Ibid., p. 59.
Abt Associates Inc., 2001, Serving Country and Community: A Study of Service in
Ibid., p. 25. AmeriCorps. A Profile of AmeriCorps Members at Baseline, Washington: Corporation
for National Service, pp. 23-25.
Ibid., p. 60.
Macro International Inc., 1997, Study of Race, Class, and Ethnicity, Final Report,

Ibid., p. K-2. Washington: Corporation for National Service, pp. 60-65.

Ibid., pp. 20-21. 66
Ibid., p. 63.

Ibid., p. 22. 67
Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National
Ibid., p. 34. and Community Service, pp. 65-66.

Ibid., pp. 61 and 63. Macro International Inc., 1997, Study of Race, Class, and Ethnicity, Final Report,

Washington: Corporation for National Service, pp. 68-70.
Aguirre International, 1999, Making a Difference: Impact of
AmeriCorps*State/National Direct on Members and Communities 1994-95 and 1995- 69
Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
96, Washington: Corporation for National Service, p. 106. of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National
and Community Service, p. K-2.
In 1994 the average cost of two years of tuition and fees at a public university
was $5,070, of which the $4,725 education award paid 93 percent. In 2004, the 70
Aguirre International, AmeriCorps State/National Programs Impact
average cost of two years of tuition and fees at a public university was $10,264, Evaluation, cited in Perry, James L. and Ann Marie Thomson, 2004, Civic
of which the $4,725 education award paid 46 percent. To adjust for the rise in Service: What Difference Does It Make?, New York: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 87 and
the cost of education, the education award would need to be increased to 193, note 180.
$9,545. College Board, 2004, Trends in College Pricing 2004, New York: College

Aguirre International, 1999, Making a Difference: Impact of
AmeriCorps*State/National Direct on Members and Communities 1994-95 and 1995-
96, Washington: Corporation for National Service, p. 23.

Ibid., p. v.

Ibid., p. 84.

Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National and
Community Service, p. K-2.
Ibid., p. 21.

Ibid., p. 30.

Corporation for National and Community Service, 2004, Performance and
Accountability Report, Fiscal Year 2004, Washington: Corporation for National and
Community Service, p. A-33.

Ibid., p. B-112.

Abt Associates Inc., 2001, AmeriCorps Tutoring Outcomes Study, Washington:
Corporation for National Service, p. 19, and Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving
Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study of Service in AmeriCorps, Early
Findings, Washington: Corporation for National and Community Service, p. 36.

Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal Study
of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for National and
Community Service, p. 57.

Ibid., p. 63.

Ibid., p. 48.

Ibid., p. 50.

Ibid., p. 53.

Ibid., pp. 47-57.

A Frontline View • 55


A Frontline

hen President Bush challenged Americans in
early 2002 to devote at least 4,000 hours of
their lives to volunteering, the horrors of
9/11 were still fresh in our minds. According to the
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2002, some
59.8 million of us answered his call and volunteered
with nonprofit organizations. A year later, the number
jumped to 63.8 million, and in 2004, it rose yet again,
to 64.5 million.
This sustained climb in volunteerism is extremely
unusual; all comparable increases that preceded it
faded after months. Indeed, we have not had a similar
opportunity to expand civic engagement in our com-
munities since Pearl Harbor. All Americans have a
duty to support this upward trend. Likewise, we at the
Corporation for National and Community Service
(CNCS) have a duty to ensure that our programs—
AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve
America—amplify the president’s challenge to us all
to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster
a culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility
across America.
56 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Frontline View • 57

STRENGTHENING BIPARTISAN SUPPORT an overarching emphasis on strengthening relationships with our
core customers, the grantees who operate national service programs,
In the 1990s, our programs, especially AmeriCorps, were caught and those programs’ participants. Our congressional and executive
in some of the hottest partisan crossfire in Washington. Today, branch overseers agree that these changes have put us back on the
they enjoy strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress right track. Many of the reforms we implemented will take hold
and have virtually every governor’s enthusiastic backing. The cor- during the course of 2005, freeing us to concentrate on the devel-
poration received a 20 percent funding increase in fiscal 2004, opment of a strategic vision for national service for the next five
including a remarkable 40 percent increase for AmeriCorps that years.
allowed us to support a record 75,000 AmeriCorps members.
Although our fiscal 2005 budget provides support for slightly STRENGTHENING THE CONNECTION
fewer participants, we clearly are holding our own in very difficult BETWEEN SERVICE AND VOLUNTEERING
budgetary times, thanks in no small part to the president’s stead-
fast commitment to national service and to our friends in National service grows stronger when it uses its participants to
Congress, many of whom are members of the newly formed Nat- recruit, train, and manage other community volunteers. For exam-
ional Service Caucus. ple, in 2003, some 450 AmeriCorps members working with
Still, a small but influential group of national lawmakers remains Habitat for Humanity recruited, trained, or supervised more than
skeptical of AmeriCorps. We want to earn their trust and hope to do 150,000 other volunteers, multiplying their impact more than 300
so by recommitting ourselves to the community-based nature of times.
AmeriCorps. We are working hard to enhance its value to each state’s Similarly, in 2004, Florida’s state service commission and national
gubernatorially appointed service commission. We will also spread a service participants mobilized and coordinated more than 140,000 vol-
more compelling message about using federal dollars to leverage vol- unteers in response to a series of hurricanes that devastated Florida and
unteerism at the grassroots level; issue rules that respond to congres- other Southeastern states. Those volunteers performed 6 million hours
sional calls for reform; and administer our programs with the highest of service—the largest volunteer disaster-recovery effort in U.S. history,
level of fiscal and operational integrity. according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Even AmeriCorps members who primarily do hands-on service fre-
GETTING OUR HOUSE BACK IN ORDER quently mobilize volunteers. For example, in 2004, although the 700
AmeriCorps members in City Year provided largely education servic-
2002 and 2003 were bruising years for the corporation. Financial es, they nevertheless were able to mobilize more than 50,000 volun-
and operational problems eroded our credibility with our grantees, teers to support their work.
with Congress, and even with employees. We responded by launch- National service can add real value by focusing on mobilization.
ing significant management and operational reforms designed to get From a study that the corporation co-sponsored last year with the
our house back in order. USA Freedom Corps, the UPS Foundation, and the Urban Institute,
The corporation has created new standards of fiscal integrity and we know that most charities would love to have a full-time staff
restructured many of its operations and practices, from how we member devoted to volunteer management but cannot afford one.
review grants to how we evaluate our supervisors. We have placed National service, and AmeriCorps in particular, is uniquely situated
58 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Frontline View • 59

to fill this gap and increasingly will do so over the next decade. The EXPANDING THE “PIPELINE EFFECTS”
corporation and its partners in the states will strengthen ties to organ-
izations such as Volunteer Centers, Hands On Network, and many In December 2004, the corporation released the initial findings of
local United Way chapters dedicated to increasing volunteerism and a groundbreaking study of how serving in AmeriCorps influences
matching volunteers to local needs. former members’ civic attitudes and behaviors later in their lives.
This scientifically rigorous study, entitled Serving Country and
LEVERAGING FEDERAL DOLLARS Community: A Longitudinal Study of Service in AmeriCorps, clearly
TO MAKE PROGRAMS MORE SUSTAINABLE tells us that people who take the AmeriCorps pledge and fulfill their
year of service become more engaged citizens than they would have
Using federal dollars to generate more local spending is critical to been had they not participated in AmeriCorps. They have a greater
AmeriCorps’ success. A decade of experience has taught us that a local sense of connection to their community, more knowledge of its prob-
program’s success at raising funds to match its federal grant is a key lems, a heightened sense of community obligation, and a greater like-
measure of its strength and long-term viability. Over the past four lihood of working on its behalf.
years, CNCS grantees have raised nearly $1.5 billion in matching One finding leaped off the pages for those of us concerned about
funds, or about $360 million a year, to support their national service future leadership in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Three
programs. That nonfederal revenue stream adds a critical element of years after the baseline survey was conducted, former AmeriCorps
sustainability to their programs. members were far more likely than their counterparts to be employed
Matching grants are just one of the ways the corporation uses its in the public service sector, including teaching, public safety, social
leverage to make grassroots programs more viable over the long term. work, and full-time military service. We also know that AmeriCorps
Using service workers to mobilize other volunteers, as discussed, is a contributes more entry- and mid-level employees to social-service
prime example. The degree to which local groups assume responsibil- nonprofits than any other comparable institution.
ity for community resources that service participants create, build, or The corporation will look for ways to improve this employment
renovate is another, as is the extent to which service participants con- pipeline. For example, we have no system for informing graduating
tinue to improve their communities after participating in AmeriCorps members about potential job opportunities in the pub-
AmeriCorps or other service programs. lic sector. And on the front end of the pipeline, we are not doing a
CNCS will soon issue final AmeriCorps rules that will raise the sufficient job of helping student participants in our Learn and Serve
leveraging power of federally supported service to another level. America programs understand opportunities available through
They have been the subject of considerable attention and public AmeriCorps, VISTA, NCCC, or the Peace Corps.
comment. We understand that no one is pleased to have to con-
tribute more in order to receive the same benefit. However, we hope BUILDING HIGH-QUALITY SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES
that AmeriCorps grantees will agree that we listened and worked FOR RETIRING BABY BOOMERS
hard to respond to their concerns. In particular, we have tried hard
to respond to the fears of groups working in economically distressed In the coming two decades, some 77 million baby boomers will
communities and to recognize sustainability indicators that go reach retirement age. At the same time, the number of frail and eld-
beyond financial matching. erly people needing long-term care will rise by 30 percent and more.
60 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Frontline View • 61

We believe that baby boomers represent a vast potential pool of tal- ment of resources. Learn and Serve America continues to create
ented, active, and caring volunteers, capable of addressing a wide opportunities for millions of young people to develop a lifelong ethic
range of societal needs, including elder care. With more than 30 years of service and civic participation. And Senior Corps brings to the
of experience recruiting and placing senior volunteers, Senior Corps table more than 35 years of experience in engaging older Americans
will lead our effort in this area. Our AmeriCorps programs will also in community service. If we work together to leverage each of these
be put to the test of engaging these retirees. Is a retired teacher pro- programs’ strengths, we can take advantage of this rare window of
fessional corps a good business model? What about retired health-care opportunity to sustain and, it is hoped, expand volunteerism and
and social workers? Is it feasible and advisable to make education civic engagement in America.
awards more attractive to older Americans by allowing them to trans-
fer the benefits to their children?
These are tough questions, but the corporation will work hard to
adapt America’s national service infrastructure to welcome this new
group to service.


Although the corporation has made progress in forming partner-
ships with nongovernment institutions, we believe we can do far
more to align our grantees’ and service participants’ needs with
resources from the business, foundation, and education communities.
As we develop our five-year strategic plan, we will engage these part-
ners in the public comment period and ensure that the final plan sup-
ports stronger integration of these sectors.
The corporation will work especially hard in 2005 to align our
AmeriCorps programs more closely with institutions of higher educa-
tion. Since 1994, AmeriCorps members have earned more than $1
billion in college scholarships and student loan repayments, but we
are not leveraging those funds as best we can to enhance and improve
service. We need to begin discussions with our partners in higher edu-
cation about matching awards from universities, using federal work-
study college aid for service, offering college credit for service, and
integrating service learning into the college curriculum. We expect to
make a hard run at some of those issues this year.
After a decade of growth and experience, AmeriCorps is just begin-
ning to hit its stride in terms of administration and effective deploy-
A Global Perspective • 63


A Global Perspective

s novel as it may seem to us, America’s decade-
old experiment in national service is hardly
unique. Indeed, national service programs have
grown tremendously across the world during the past
two decades. Although they take many forms and serve
many different purposes, these programs often share
features shaped by the common histories, politics, and
cultures of particular regions. Their growing popularity
could signal the birth of a new social institution that
someday might become as much a part of life as going
to school and working for a living.1


The Global Service Institute defines service as “an
organized period of substantial engagement and contri-
bution to the local, national, or world community, rec-
ognized and valued by society, with minimal monetary
contribution to the participant.”2 Most national service
programs meet this definition. Generally speaking, they
offer young men and women structured opportunities
to participate in civic life in ways that are intended to
benefit themselves and their communities.3 Some
64 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Global Perspective • 65

national programs (e.g., Australia, China, Japan, United Kingdom, AFRICA
United States) send service workers to other parts of the world; oth-
ers bring people from different countries together to promote inter- Many African countries, for example, established national service
national understanding and regional identity (e.g., European programs during the era of colonial independence in the 1960s and
Volunteer Service, Canada World Youth); and still others engage ’70s. Several still exist, as in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia,
older people in structured volunteer service (e.g., United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe, although most have been modified, refocused on dif-
United States).4 ferent priority issues, or corrupted and turned into militias. Others
In the most common national service model, young people in their have been discontinued, as in Botswana and Tanzania. Namibia
late teens and twenties spend a year working full time to meet local launched its national service program in 1999, and South Africa
communities’ needs. But within that broad model, details vary con- adopted its National Youth Service Programme in 2004.5
siderably from country to country. The government might control Most African programs were designed to mobilize young people for
programs centrally, and its military might be involved in civilian serv- national development. Poverty, disease, and armed conflict across the
ice programs (Kenya), or the central government might determine continent are disrupting social and family structures, displacing mil-
criteria and funding and deliver services through nongovernmental lions from their homes, and undermining the values of democracy,
organizations, also known as NGOs (United States). Programs also social equality, and economic opportunity. Structured service pro-
differ in terms of mandatory versus voluntary participation, length of grams can provide positive alternatives to membership in militias or
service, and levels of compensation and benefits provided to partici- street gangs and play an important role in nation-building.
pants. Participation might be limited to targeted groups (university
graduates in Nigeria and China) or open to all young people (Italy Nigeria
and the United States). The Nigerian National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was inaugurat-
Program goals also vary widely and typically address pressing ed soon after the end of the civil war in 1970 to promote development
national needs. Nigeria, for instance, created its national service pro- and reconciliation. NYSC is a one-year compulsory program for all
gram after gaining its independence, with two principal goals in Nigerian university and polytechnic graduates, except those who have
mind—forging national cohesion and identity among multiple tribal served in the armed forces or intelligence services. It aims to foster
groups, and harnessing university graduates’ skills to contribute to national unity, encourage labor mobility, and boost rural development.
national development. North American and Western European pro- The program has become Nigeria’s main source of teachers and doctors
grams, meanwhile, tend to focus on strengthening participants’ val- in rural hospitals.
ues and civic behaviors. In South Africa and Namibia, where youth
joblessness hovers near 60 percent, it is impossible to separate nation- NYSC has also contributed to nation-building and intergroup under-
al service from employment. standing. Corps members must work away from their home areas and
with other tribal groups.
The Nigerian government provides most of the funding; matching
While countries’ national service programs vary considerably in funds are required from state and local authorities. Annual participa-
form and focus, they are often similar at the regional level. tion rates have varied, depending on the numbers of university grad-
66 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Global Perspective • 67

uates and the availability of funds. Approximately 710,000 young tries in the region is mixed, several recent developments in Argentina,
Nigerians served in the program between 1973 and 1999.6 Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and elsewhere provide evidence of positive
interest in youth service among policymakers.
A central theme of African service programs is giving young people
opportunities to become involved in nation-building. By investing Chile
their time, skills, and passion, volunteers play an important role in Servicio Pais is one of five programs of Fundación para la Superación
nurturing their communities’ well-being. Service programs provide de la Pobreza committed to overcoming poverty in Chile. Founded in
disenchanted youth an opportunity to make a significant contribu- 1995, Servicio Pais enlists recent university graduates to work with
tion and transform not only their own sense of efficacy, but the com- municipalities and social organizations throughout Chile, but partic-
munities’ opinions about young people. The programs also address ularly in geographically isolated areas. Servicio Pais initially sought to
needs that cannot otherwise be met, due to a lack of human and distribute young professionals more equitably throughout the country.
material resources. Today, young professionals in the program engage community members
and organizations in local problem-solving and provide technical
LATIN AMERICA assistance. Now, 264 professionals are serving for 13 months in 114
rural communities around the country.9
In Latin America, the concept of solidaridad is the driving force
behind national service, service-learning, and volunteer programs. As Service learning has expanded rapidly in schools in Argentina,
explained by one of the region’s leading practitioners, Maria Nieves Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Uruguay during
Tapia, executive director of Centro Latinoamericano de Aprendizaje the past five years. This pedagogical approach to youth service has
y Servicio Solidario (CLAYSS), solidaridad means “working together two main thrusts: teaching subjects through hands-on, experiential
for the common cause, helping others in an organized and effective learning and applying the lessons learned in socially responsible ways
way, standing as a group or as a nation to defend one’s rights, face nat- in the community; and teaching civic education as a discrete subject,
ural disasters, or economic crisis, and to do it hand in hand. including active engagement in the communities. In Argentina,
Solidaridad is one of the values South Americans cherish most, and it fourth-graders improve their writing skills and learn important civic
is the common flag of all the new and old volunteer organizations in participation skills by sending letters to newspapers about the need
our emerging civic societies.” 7 for recreational facilities in their communities.
Many Latin American national service programs began in the Service learning is also common in Latin American universities. In
1990s, including Adopta un Hermano and Servicio Pais in Chile, Mexico, all university students must spend several hundred hours in
Programa Jovem Cidadão: Serviçio Civil Voluntário in Brazil, and community service projects aimed at poverty alleviation as part of the
Uruguay Solidario in Uruguay. Government played an active role in final third of their undergraduate studies.10 For example, undergrad-
the development of several nations’ programs. In other cases, NGOs uate economics students practice their skills by working with
took the lead and may or may not have received government funding. microenterprises to provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs who
Innovations in Civic Participation has published preliminary results lack institutional supports. Universidade Solidario (UniSol) in Brazil
from its review of Latin American and Caribbean nations’ policies on mobilizes university faculty and students to work with municipalities
service.8 Although the policy environment for youth service in coun- in impoverished regions. In 2002, some 16,000 students from 191
68 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Global Perspective • 69

universities participated in the program in almost 1,000 poor and men in yearlong environmental and social service placements.
Brazilian communities.11 Similar programs exist in Colombia, Chile, All told, Germany has space for approximately 23,000 such volun-
Costa Rica, and other countries in the region. Most have the stated teers, and demand for those positions is growing.13
goal of developing lifelong habits of civic engagement, including par-
ticipation in national and community service programs. Italy
As the gap between rich and poor has widened in Latin America, Italy’s National Civic Service was designed to address social exclusion and
civic organizations have taken the lead in fighting poverty and polit- enhance constitutional principles of social solidarity; to develop civic,
ical corruption. Schools and colleges have been under pressure to do social, cultural, and professional values among young people; to provide
more in this regard but are already overwhelmed. Service learning civil defense in emergencies; to preserve the environment; to provide social
offers them a way to attend to social needs, enhance educational qual- assistance; and to promote Italy’s cultural and educational sectors. Young
ity, and reinforce solidaridad. men and women between the ages of 18 and 28 serve for 12 months.
During its pilot phase from 1998 to 2004 the program enrolled both vol-
EUROPE unteers and military conscientious objectors—15,000 volunteers and
85,000 conscientious objectors in 2003. It is unclear how the end of mil-
The end of the Cold War has significantly influenced national serv- itary conscription in January 2005 will affect enrollment, but funds are
ice policy in Europe. Many Western European nations maintained available to support about 60,000 volunteers per year.14
large conscript defense forces during the postwar era and are now
moving to smaller all-volunteer forces. As military conscription The end of the Cold War has affected Russia and Eastern Europe
ended, nations began debating whether to create either mandatory or quite differently. Governments in former communist states have taken
voluntary civilian national service programs as a means of fulfilling virtually no action to create civilian national service programs. Efforts
the social contract between the state and the individual. The Italian there to engage young people in service are mainly led by international
(2001) and French (2000) governments, for instance, created both donors, including the Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation,
voluntary armies and voluntary national service programs open to Levi Strauss & Co., and others. This is especially true in Hungary, the
men and women. Both countries’ laws include provisions for volun- Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and, to a limited extent, in the
teering overseas. Balkans. These privately funded Eastern European programs are often
Germany is a notable exception, in that it maintains military con- designed to engage young people in civic activities that strengthen
scription as well as the Zivildienst, which assigns large numbers of democracy and civil society. During the communist era, young Eastern
conscientious objectors to social service work each year. Social welfare Europeans were expected to participate in politically related voluntary
groups that benefit from the employment of conscientious objectors service. Given this legacy of coercion, skepticism about national and
are some of the strongest advocates of conscription; roughly 100,000 community service remains strong. However, the growing number of
conscripts work for low wages in German mental hospitals and other civil society organizations in the region may help to change the prospect
welfare organizations every year. for national service in the future.15
Several voluntary national and community service programs, In 2000, the European Union Youth Programme created the
including the Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr and the Freiwilliges Ökologisches European Voluntary Service (EVS), a unique development in
Jahr, began in Germany in the 1980s. They support young women national service programs. EVS allows young people in member
70 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Global Perspective • 71

states between the ages of 18 and 25 to volunteer for three to 12 services to rural areas through the Poverty Alleviation Relay
months in an NGO in another member state. One of the program’s Project.18 In 2003, the Chinese government launched Go West, a
chief purposes is to create a pan-European identity. As the European new national service program that sends university graduates to
Union expands, EVS will be a vehicle for exposing young people to serve in underdeveloped western regions of the country for one or
realities in new member states. According to John Stringham, for- two years. In 2004, some 20,000 university graduates participated
mer director of the Association of Voluntary Service Organizations in the program.19
in Brussels and author of a recent research paper on EVS, “The pro- The Indian National Service Scheme was created in 1969. Based on
gram is an attractive option for many young people because it com- Gandhian principles of nonviolence and self-reliance, it seeks to
bines individual development (language, international, and profes- develop civic responsibility in young people and contribute to
sional experience) with the feeling of ‘making a difference.’” national development. The program is based at universities and
Demand for placements each year exceeds the number of available schools and involves nearly 1 million students. India’s smaller
positions (3,500 in 2002).17 National Service Volunteer Scheme enrolls several thousand universi-
As Cold War legacies fade, and as civil society institutions grow in ty graduates each year in a full-time program that matches their aca-
the East, national service programs can help create a common demic qualifications to areas in need.20
European outlook. EVS represents an attempt to build a common Malaysia created a new national service program in 2004 and
European identity and enable Eastern and Western Europeans to enrolled 85,000 eighteen-year-olds in its first group. Participants are
learn from one another. selected randomly for a mandatory three-month term of service. The
program is run under the direction of the military.
Asia, where national service programs vary more than in other The Pakistan National Youth Service was launched in 2003 for 100
regions, has seen a number of recent developments. young men and women between the ages of 15 and 29 who serve their
China has encouraged youth service in urban areas since the communities for one year. In 2004, an additional 1,000 new volun-
1980s, in conjunction with its economic and social reforms. As in teers were enrolled. The program recognizes young people as major
Russia, the communist tradition in China links youth participation partners in development and nation-building and aims to foster par-
to political parties. Participation is voluntary today, although this ticipation and leadership, increase the participation of young women
was not always the case. Before the social, political, and economic in development efforts, and improve education and health. The new
reforms of the past 15 years, young people were expected to answer participants will be engaged in childhood literacy efforts for children
calls for service to respond to national disasters or political events. 5 to 9 years old in Punjab province through a partnership of the dis-
In 1994, the Communist Youth League established the China trict government of Kasur and UNICEF. The PNYS is considered an
Young Volunteers Association (CYVA) to design and implement experiment at this point, but has the potential to be the basis for a
youth service programs. Between 1994 and 1999, approximately large-scale nationwide program.22
70 million young people participated voluntarily in programs
organized by the CYVA. These programs helped the elderly and Unlike European, Latin American, and African programs, Asian
disabled, responded to emergencies and disasters, and provided programs have no dominant theme. The communist tradition in
72 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Global Perspective • 73

China continues to maintain strong links between service programs CONCLUSION
and political parties. India’s program is based largely in schools and
universities and stems from Gandhian principles. In Malaysia, the Although national service programs vary considerably in form and
program is run by the military. Throughout the region, however, function, they all give young people a chance to address important
national service addresses important social, political, and economic priorities in their communities. Policymakers and institutions are
needs. increasingly turning to the concept to engage young people in mean-
ingful civic activity. If recent trends continue, this form of engage-
ARE THERE LESSONS FOR THE UNITED STATES ment may eventually become a common experience and expectation
FROM INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE? for the majority of young people worldwide.

Should the political will exist in the United States in the future for
the significant expansion of youth service to engage the majority of
young people for an intensive period of a year or more, aspects of
several programs in other countries might be adapted to American
realities. The German requirement that all young men serve either
in the military or in a civilian capacity (and making the choice non-
punitive and bureaucratically easy) could be adapted to the United
States if the expectation were also extended to women. The
Democratic Leadership Council in the late 1980s supported the
idea that young people bound for college should spend a year prior
to entering higher education in national service—a model now in
place in Botswana. The Nigerian national service program that
requires all university graduates to spend a year in service, or the
Mexican model that requires all undergraduates to serve in poverty
alleviation activities before graduating, could be adapted in the
United States with the proper financial incentives to fill the need for
scarce skills in a variety of areas. In effect, this is a variation on the
U.S. National Public Health Service Corps, which pays for medical
education for a limited number of students in return for a commit-
ment to serve several years in poor communities. The AmeriCorps
program has been studied by several other countries as a replicable
model, but serious consideration of national youth service models
in other countries would be a profitable exercise for policymakers
and advocates hoping to expand youth service opportunities in the
United States.
74 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E A Global Perspective • 75

Ibid. p. 100.

Sherraden, Michael, Youth Service as Strong Policy, paper prepared for The Ford
Stroud and Omeltchenko, The Post-Cold War Environment for National Service
Foundation Worldwide Workshop on Youth Involvement as a Strategy for Social, Policy: Developments in Germany, Italy, Russia and China, Service Enquiry, 2003,
Economic, and Democratic Development, 2000.

Youth Civic Service in Europe, op. cit., p. 213.

The United Nations defines youth as 15 to 24, although different countries
Ibid., p. 65.
may define youth to reflect the realities of that country. In South Africa, for
instance, youth is defined as 14 to 35, in order to accommodate the needs of a
Ding, Yuanzhu, paper on China for Ford Foundation report, op. cit.
generation that was negatively affected by the policies of the former apartheid
government; South African National Youth Commission Act, 1996.
People’s Daily Online, June 18, 2004

A typology and brief description of service types is available at the Global
Service News Worldwide, Issue 9, ICP, 2004,
Service Institute web site:
Service News Worldwide, Issue 14, ICP, 2004,
South Africa National Youth Commission,
Service News Worldwide, Issue 14, ICP, 2004,; information from
Ford Foundation report, op. cit. Ali Khan, country coordinator, Pakistan National Youth Service.

Tapia, Maria Nieves, ‘Servicio’ and ‘Solidaridad’ in South American Spanish,
Service Enquiry, 2003, Global Service Institute,

Metz, Edward et al., An Exploration of National Youth Service Policy in 17
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Innovations in Civic Participation,
2004. Future studies are planned on youth service policies in Asia, Africa, and


Ford Foundation report, op. cit.


For Italy, see Act No. 64/2001, “Establishment of National Civic
Service,”March 6, 2001. For France, see article L.111-2 of the national service
code; measures relating to national service reform, N.2000-242.

Youth Civic Service in Europe, Association of Voluntary Service Organizations,
draft report, Global Service Institute, 2004, p. 106.

Putting Faith in Service • 79


Putting Faith in Service

o the world’s five major religions agree on
anything? They don’t agree on the nature of
God. They don’t agree on the path to salva-
tion. They don’t share the same views about good and
evil. When you go down a list of theological tenets, it’s
hard to find a single idea that Christianity, Islam,
Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism embrace.
But there are two things—perhaps the only two
things—that all of these faiths ostensibly endorse:
charity and service.

“Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him
who would borrow from you.”—Jesus (Matthew 5:42)

“There is a key for everything, and the key to Paradise is
love for the poor.” —The Prophet Muhammad,
Hadith reported by Ibn Umar

“Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain
the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak
and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the
wicked.” —Psalms 82:3-4
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“He is no friend who does not give to a friend, to a comrade who missed from his post for unrelated reasons), eventually became one of
comes imploring for food; let him leave such a man—his is not a the corps’ biggest advocates. “We at Habitat for Humanity feel priv-
home—and rather seek a stranger who brings him comfort.” ileged and honored to have the AmeriCorps people with us, and we
—Rig Veda 10.117.1-6 (Hindu) want more of them as time goes on,” he said.
A federal appeals court recently ruled that this type of coopera-
“If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving and sharing, they tion meets constitutional muster because AmeriCorps funds indi-
would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of selfishness vidual volunteers and not the religious programs they work with.
overcome their minds.” —The Buddha, Itivuttaka Sutra After all, federal college financial aid programs give education
vouchers to college students who use the money to attend divinity
Caring for the lowly is central to virtually all faiths, and therein lies school. As long as corps members don’t lead prayers or the like
a huge opportunity for supporters of national service. Religion can when they’re on the government’s dime, it’s fine for them to partic-
fuel service, and service can fuel religion. ipate in a home-building program—even one founded and operat-
I’m not proposing anything entirely new. In fact, under the Bush ed by people of faith.
administration, faith-based programs have become a bigger part of It shouldn’t be hard for AmeriCorps to stay within the bounds of
AmeriCorps, and the corps has become a bigger part of President the First Amendment’s establishment clause. Much religious mis-
Bush’s faith-based initiative. In all, 13.9 percent of the competitive sionary work today is geared toward modeling Christian or Jewish
grants awarded by the Corporation for National and Community ethics or the values of a particular faith through action, rather than
Service (CNCS) in 2003 went to faith-based programs. conversion. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps, for instance, attempts to
What I am proposing new is that national service proponents chal- witness the life of Christ by helping the poor. It does little or no
lenge the faith community to dramatically increase its involvement in proselytizing.
the drive to enlist people in service. Our goal should be to recruit Here’s another example: The Rev. Wilson Goode, a former mayor
some 100,000 houses of worship to contribute to a service program of Philadelphia, created a program called Amachi to help fathers in
in some way. prison. He was able to expand into 15 other cities with help from
Religious groups often have a surplus of volunteers but a paucity of AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps. In all, volunteers from these
managers to coordinate them. Under Corporation for National and other CNCS programs served more than 12,000 children of pris-
Service Chief Executive Harris Wofford in the mid-1990s, oners and 30,000 ex-offenders.
AmeriCorps began encouraging its members not only to do service Working with religious groups could also help national service scale
themselves but to recruit and lead others to serve. For instance, the up—and not just because faith-based aid is fashionable now. When I
Christian housing ministry Habitat for Humanity has reported that worked at AmeriCorps in the mid-1990s, we were on a drive to
its 450 AmeriCorps members recruited, trained, or supervised more reduce its per-person costs. The main components were the modest
than 150,000 community volunteers to build Habitat homes. annual living allowance for full-time service members (now about
It’s an instructive example. Habitat’s founder, Millard Fuller, had $9,300), the $4,725 scholarship for those who complete service, and
been skeptical about taking on AmeriCorps members, fearing entan- overhead costs. The living stipend represented about half the total
glement with a big government bureaucracy. He was actually overrid- cost, which makes sense, because full-time service pretty much pre-
den by the group’s board on this point. Fuller (who was recently dis- cludes idealistic youth from working to earn money.
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Now imagine if thousands of religious groups agreed to perform appropriator might behave differently if a church in his or her district
one simple act: Provide free room and board for a national service vol- gushed about how its AmeriCorps volunteer helped it double the
unteer. The churches wouldn’t have to pay the volunteer a stipend or capacity of its homeless shelter.
divert funds from their Sunday schools. All they’d have to do is get a There’s far more reason to take this path than building support for
family to agree to take in a volunteer as a boarder for a few months. a favorite cause. When other national service groupies and I began
That simple act by churches would let AmeriCorps help tens of thou- pushing the idea in the late 1980s, we believed it could help bridge
sands more people. Every federal dollar now used to fund 10 corps America’s racial and class divides. I still believe that and have seen
members could be stretched to fund 15. City Year, NCCC, and other AmeriCorps programs do it time and
Though it’s harder to prove, I suspect that AmeriCorps would again. They succeed because when groups of people work closely
attract more motivated volunteers if it worked with more religious together, they begin looking beyond stereotypes and sizing up each
congregations. Some corps programs are still service/job training other as individuals: Can I count on him? Does he try hard? Is he
hybrids that attract some people who are in it primarily for the cash. honest? Will he cover my back? These are factors that cut across racial
Faith-driven volunteers would most likely have a stronger sense of and class lines.
mission. Now, as it enters its second decade, AmeriCorps can similarly help
Strengthening AmeriCorps’ bonds with the faith community also ease the nation’s religious divisions, especially those stemming from
would have practical political benefits (well beyond the obvious one the war on terrorism. The same social dynamic that makes service a
that Republican politicians seem to like giving money to religious singularly effective way to build bridges across racial divides applies
groups). National service programs have always tried to enlist young equally to fostering religious understanding. A Christian and a
Americans from a broad range of backgrounds. But the truth is that Muslim caring for a homeless man together will come to see the
national service attracts more liberals than conservatives. AmeriCorps humanity in each other and perhaps come to understand how the
advocates have tried to solve that problem over the years by collabo- other person’s faith led to his or her compassion.
rating with the military or by organizing service corps on quasi-mili- Working with AmeriCorps would be good for religion in another
tary models, such as the National Civilian Community Corps sense. Many people, especially the young, are alienated from organ-
(NCCC). I love those programs; they have an esprit de corps that ized religion because they believe it is wrapped up in dogma, theolo-
forges tremendous bonds among volunteers from very different back- gy, and hypocrisy. I happen to be fond of dogma and theology, but
grounds—the old World War II class-mixing fantasy come true. hypocrisy is a big problem.
Dramatically increasing religion’s role in AmeriCorps could have a And when it comes to helping the poor, churchgoers often don’t
similar effect. Religious institutions draw people from a much wider practice what they preach. Sixty percent of the $190 billion that
range of political and socioeconomic backgrounds than, say, the Americans give to charity each year goes to religious institutions—
VISTA program. Likewise, faith-based corps programs can draw the more than to youth development, human services, education, health,
sons and daughters of red states together with the sons and daughters and foreign crises combined. Precious little finds its way to the poor.
of blue states. According to a survey by the Christian research firm Empty Tomb
Imagine the political constituency that would emerge when Inc., in 1997 the average Protestant congregant gave his or her
AmeriCorps members included not only of the daughters of college church $497. Church upkeep swallowed $418 of that amount, and
professors but also the sons of ministers. And imagine how a federal only $79 went to “benevolences.” Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine to

help your local congregation or church. The choir director needs to
be paid, and the church boiler needs to be fixed. But that shouldn’t
be confused with helping the poor or solving social problems.
The record isn’t much better when you look at the breakdown of
volunteering hours in America. Only 7 percent to 15 percent of vol-
unteering done through churches helps the larger community,
according to Lester Salamon, director of the Institute for Policy
Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Churches need to be challenged, and a national service effort that
included them as major partners would be a huge step forward. If reli-
gious groups became far more associated with direct service in their
communities and around the world, they would capture the imagina-
tion and hearts—and eventually the souls—of millions more young
people. After all, it wasn’t just Jesus’ preaching that attracted converts
but his willingness to heal the lepers and feed the poor. Imagine what
would happen if the nation’s religious organizations placed a greater
emphasis on repairing the world, to use the Jewish phrase, than on
National Service on a Community Scale • 87


National Service
on a Community Scale

n August 2000, George W. Bush began his first pres-
idential campaign in my hometown, Indianapolis. I
watched as the then-governor of Texas visited
church-based volunteers who work with urban children
and listened as he rallied citizens to become soldiers in
an army of compassion. As president, he celebrated
service again in his first inaugural address, telling his fel-
low Americans:

“What you do is as important as anything government
does. I ask you to seek a common good beyond your com-
fort … to serve your nation, beginning with your
neighbor. I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators;
citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building com-
munities of service and a nation of character.” 1

In his State of the Union Message a year later, the
president challenged every American to perform 4,000
hours of service in his or her lifetime. His themes reflect
how strongly conservative Republicans value service,
even if we sometimes differ with liberals and centrists
about Washington’s role in its advancement. When the
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president asked me to chair the board of the Corporation for erations looked upon military service: It is something everybody
National and Community Service (CNCS), he made it clear he want- simply—does.”2
ed the program enhanced, not diminished. Yet, despite strong sup- Despite Buckley’s intellectual leadership, most of his fellow conser-
port from Democrats and from every governor for the expansion vatives remain skeptics. They worry that universal service could slip
agenda pushed by former President Clinton, broad-based bipartisan too easily into conscription, and from there to the horrible outcome
support for enlarging the federal role in service has failed to material- of the government deciding how and where each young American
ize. who does not choose to enter the military should perform civilian
Why have things been so difficult for the national service move- service for a year. Making service a civic rite of passage is a big,
ment? Why do so many conservatives still oppose the expansion, if important idea. But without bipartisan support (or anything remote-
not the existence itself, of CNCS? And how can we resolve those ly close to it), it will not be the engine that drives a substantial expan-
problems in a way that expands service? As mayor of Indianapolis, I sion of service, at least in the near term.
was deeply involved in building leadership in urban neighborhoods. Leslie Lenkowsky, the former chief executive of what was then
I worried that a federal program that injected its paid employees into called the Corporation for National Service, was responding to this
grassroots programs and then tangled the programs in red tape might tension between community and national perspectives when he
retard, rather than advance, our drive to enhance civil society in the restored the word “community” to the corporation’s name, just as
Tocquevillean sense. Even now, as chairman of the CNCS board and Congress originally intended. The change was comforting for those
as an advocate of expansion, I retain some of my original anxiety. of us who believe that service starts in small neighborhood platoons
So, how do we start building a solid base of support for the growth and adds up; it gave us a place at the corporation to hang our hats.
of service? Clarifying its purpose is the first step. We need to begin by Ironically, although the name change created more room for consen-
acknowledging and resolving major policy differences that have been sus, it makes day-to-day management of the corporation a constant
papered over for too long. compromise. The very different views of Washington’s role in service
The first big philosophical difference is between those who reflected in the corporation’s name make it hard to generate the
emphasize the “community” in service and those who emphasize the intensity needed to sustain expansion.
“national.” On the one hand, the service ethic that the president A second, related tension focuses on the competition for grants
extols manifests itself in every city every day. Neighbors help neigh- among national and community organizations. Many of the very best
bors, motivated by caring and often by faith. On the other hand, service programs that CNCS funds have a leg firmly grounded on
the Progressive Policy Institute and others tend to see service each level. Highly effective, professionally managed national organi-
through a national lens. As explained elsewhere in this book, they zations like City Year, Teach for America, Jumpstart, and the
propose making national civil or military service a civic rite of pas- American Red Cross are strong competitors for grants and accom-
sage for America's youth. Indeed, many liberals and conservatives plish much at the local level with those funds. They submit better
share the view that all young Americans should serve their country applications, know CNCS and state commission staff members bet-
in some way. Just this year in National Review Online, William F. ter, and have larger infrastructures. The danger is that national
Buckley Jr. wrote: “My own proposal was that Americans endorse groups with such advantages might win ever larger percentages of
the idea of universal service without conscription. If the ethos were grants at the expense of grassroots groups, which may be deserving of
vital, we could look on universal service as the Swiss have for gen- support but less savvy about what it takes to submit a winning pro-
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posal. So the corporation is left applying arbitrary limits on grant in practice almost impossible to produce both results well, at least in
awards to ease the tension. Again, the compromises leave everyone a an empirically tested manner. Even worse, many times delivery prob-
little dissatisfied and dampen enthusiasm for expansion. lems by local organizations become surrogate measures of success (or
The third big issue that needs to be resolved is whether government failure). Records not kept to government standards can lead to
should pay individuals for service; in other words, is it really service CNCS Inspector General audits of local programs, which, in turn,
if it is, in fact, work paid for by the government? Full-time members fuel conservatives’ anxieties about excessive federal interference in
of AmeriCorps’ 2004-05 class can receive annual stipends ranging local affairs. In addition, inevitably a small number of the tens of
from $10,197 to $20,934. The federal share of these stipends cannot thousands of local people in thousands of organizations will behave
exceed 85 percent of the $10,197 minimum allowance (which works irresponsibly, or even criminally. These mistakes can be reduced with
out to about $8,700 per member), with the members’ programs pick- very tight rules from the top and accompanying audits. But the more
ing up the balance.3 In addition to the living allowance, members can rules we hand down and the more audits we conduct, the more we
receive a $4,725 federally funded education award upon successful validate conservatives’ worst fear that the federal government is using
completion of their term of service. Washington’s exact share varies its subsidies to impose its will on grassroots organizations.
dramatically from program to program. Teach for America partici- If we want to expand service in a major way, we need to articulate
pants, for example, receive very modest support from the corpora- an invigorating and inclusive message about service that clarifies poli-
tion, in addition to the education awards, but they receive salaries cies and reduces tensions. That message should reflect the following
paid entirely by their schools. The National Civilian Community principles:
Corps (NCCC), a modern version of the New Deal-era Civilian
Conservation Corps, is the corporation’s most expensive program per 1. We should clearly emphasize community over national service.
member, costing $21,000 per year, including living expenses. As CNCS board member William Schambra has observed:
CNCS has made great financial strides by increasing local matching
and reducing costs per member. But defending service by proving “Too many of service’s friends assume it should be aimed at strength-
that it pays so poorly as to constitute volunteerism seems both unin- ening national purpose and oneness, which is fine sometimes, i.e., in
spiring and arbitrary and is not a very satisfactory way to make a nor- war and national crisis, but not sustainable at such a high pitch over
mative distinction about volunteerism. To create bipartisan enthusi- time. Conservatism’s idea of service has to do with linking folks with
asm for expansion, conservative advocates of service need to rethink local community, quietly and over the long haul, and for that purpose,
and better articulate why government is involved and then why that using paid staff to strengthen local nonprofits and neighborhoods is
involvement should be enhanced. crucial. The promotion of national community and civic engagement
The last major problem area arises from the need to measure out- in national causes tends to erode local community attachments over
comes and guard against wrongdoing. AmeriCorps differs from other time, whereas building up local community provides the permanent
government programs, in that it was created to help both the young understructure for larger, national purposes when occasions present
people who serve their country and the needy people whom they themselves.” 4
serve. Take a tutoring program, for example. To judge its effective-
ness, should we evaluate students’ test scores and/or the experiences Anchoring expansion on community service—enabling more small
of the service workers who did the tutoring? It is easy to say both, but platoons—would bring the service movement squarely within the
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president’s compassion agenda. He believes that government can best 3. The federal government should accept a role of enhancing a
help the needy through a network of local associations, faith-based culture of service and helping to finance the infrastructure that
organizations, and nonprofit groups closest to the people, rather than supports this effort, but it should not consider itself a primary
through cumbersome bureaucracies. Governments should stop trying source of volunteers. Government agencies can help by better utiliz-
to monopolize the doing of good deeds; instead, they should contract ing citizen volunteers to advance their missions. Government pro-
for some services while stimulating more local volunteerism. grams, and grants where applicable, should more explicitly consider
Conservatives and liberals should both be able to rally around a volunteer utilization as a criterion for selection. Even in the day-to-
model where once government accepts an obligation to help people day work of an agency, citizens can play a much larger part.
in a certain way it then looks to the best network of providers to pro- The Department of Interior, for example, created a user-friendly
duce these results—both paid and volunteer. More Americans Internet tool to match volunteers with service opportunities and
engaged in service both helps those in need and strengthens the pat- offered it to other federal agencies. These tools have linked thousands
terns of local community service that are the foundation of our of motivated volunteers with thousands of important tasks. In this
democracy. same spirit, CNCS should concentrate on the huge opportunity of
enhancing volunteerism among retired baby boomers, whose contri-
2. Expansion’s explicit goal should be more people doing more butions can benefit civic life, and their lives, enormously. Such an
service. We should resolve the dispute between defining success on approach would produce a more vibrant civil society and build more
the basis of service or on the basis of its results in favor of the former. durable support for future government investments.
Of course, watching and measuring, to the extent possible, the results The president’s service initiatives in the wake of 9/11 clearly
for those who are helped is worthwhile, but holding volunteerism demonstrate the advantages of advocacy. By executive order, he cre-
hostage to a government definition of success seems inherently wor- ated USA Freedom Corps, led by his close adviser and assistant John
risome. We also must develop a culture that reiterates the duty, obli- Bridgeland. Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars and count-
gation, and privilege of service. A longitudinal study of service for less years building and managing a website to encourage volun-
CNCS revealed that participation in AmeriCorps State and National teerism, Freedom Corps decided to provide the “front door” through
programs consistently enhanced participants’ civic engagement, which Americans could find information about volunteering in their
employment, and life-skill outcomes.5 Service helps communities in own communities. It built an infrastructure for service that featured
numerous ways. In Indianapolis, I noticed how middle-class citizens 900 local “Citizen Corps Councils” in every state, hundreds of vol-
who worked with urban youth came to understand them and their unteers in police and medical service, and 700 business chief execu-
problems more deeply. tives who have pledged to find volunteer opportunities for their 5
Service connects people to neighborhood groups, building them up million employees.6
and extending their reach. When a shelter in a church basement gets Conservatives need to accept that active and expanded volun-
stronger through more volunteers, it builds up its influence and pro- teerism requires a robust infrastructure. Both as mayor and prosecu-
duces badly needed social capital. Positive outcomes for those assist- tor, I tried to launch a number of volunteer programs. The ones that
ed through service, of course, are important, but sufficiently difficult worked best typically had talented full-time staff directors, careful
to measure and so broad as to be distracting. CNCS should concen- application requirements, training, and constant evaluation. Weak,
trate on its core service mission. ad hoc support made volunteers’ work less effective and less satisfy-
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ing. It is naïve to hope for a major renaissance of volunteerism with- sify programs, cause them to compete more for members, and allow
out the money to leverage it. smaller faith-based and community service providers to participate
Effective solutions require a new form of governance, where public without having to apply for and obtain a government grant that has
officials produce successful solutions by envisioning a network of little more than reporting requirements.
providers from different sectors, conceptualizing how the many parts Since community participation supports democracy itself, a much
fit together and then investing government dollars to leverage results. broader array of government agencies should be involved. Agencies
In this model, CNCS should look at how it can invest its resources in can take simple steps like the Department of Interior volunteer site
a way that facilitates the greatest number of Americans possible vol- mentioned. Or officials in many departments when evaluating grants
unteering in their communities. could add a criterion for volunteer leveraging. Or perhaps there are
instances where agencies could provide monetary incentives, such as
4. The federal government’s involvement should be broader, and the Department of Education granting discounts on student loan
different. First, we need to rethink how CNCS itself stimulates serv- paybacks to those young adults accomplishing certain levels of
ice. Devolving control to states, and even individuals, would service.
strengthen community efforts. Today, CNCS administers its pro-
grams through a bewildering mix of federal and state agencies. These We conservatives think of ourselves as Tocquevillean in approach.
need to be dramatically simplified. More authority should be turned Let’s use those important lessons to sharpen the true message of serv-
over to those states able to accept it. Governors have state service ice, but then support and enlarge it in order to truly maintain and
commissions and staffs that could generally accept more authority. celebrate the great advantages of the American experiment.
As it rationalizes its management structure, CNCS should re-eval-
uate its relationships with its top national organizations. Rather than
force groups like Teach for America and City Year to continue strad-
dling the national/local divide and arbitrarily limit their growth, the
corporation should treat them as part of its support structure. Many
of these strong national players provide better infrastructure for serv-
ice than CNCS itself. The corporation should outsource recruitment,
training, and technical assistance to these national organizations and
others of a more conservative stripe and encourage them to “fran-
chise” their back-office support services. By doing so, CNCS can
broaden and diversify service opportunities for grassroots groups.
We also should give AmeriCorps workers more control over their
service benefits. Awarding benefits to members directly, rather than to
the programs they work for, is one way to do this. We should adopt
the GI Bill or Pell Grant model. Let’s let service-minded citizens
decide whether to use these educational vouchers themselves or pass
them along to their children or grandchildren. This would help diver-

“President George W. Bush’s Inaugural Address” January 20, 2001,

Buckley,William F. Jr., Saving the Democrats: Where Might the Party Go in the
Immediate Years Ahead?, Jan. 7, 2005,

Corporation for National and Community Service, March 2004,

William Schambra, conversation with the author, December 2004.

Abt Associates Inc., 2004, Serving Country and Community: A Longitudinal
Study of Service in AmeriCorps, Early Findings, Washington: Corporation for
National and Community Service.

Goldsmith, Stephen and William Eggers, Governing by Network: The New Shape
of the Public Sector, Washington: Brookings Institution, 2004.
The Case for Universal Service • 99


The Case
for Universal Service

merica should move toward a system of compul-
sory, full-time, 18-month service for all able-
bodied high school graduates (and in the case of
dropouts, all 18-year-olds). They should be allowed to
choose between military or civilian service, but if all slots
in the military were filled, they would have to perform
civilian service. It would cost at least $60 billion per year
to fully implement this system, which would certainly
slow its development and could well impose a ceiling on
participation. A lottery, to which all are exposed and
from which none but the unfit can escape, would be the
best response to these constraints.
I come to this position via three routes. The first is
public service. From 1993 to 1995 I served as deputy
assistant to President Clinton for domestic policy, in
which capacity I represented the Domestic Policy
Council on the task force that was working (against
considerable odds) to turn the president’s campaign
pledge on national service into legislative reality. I
believed then, as I do today, that national service can
play a key role in revitalizing citizenship. I was dismayed
to discover that budgetary pressures, lack of support
100 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E The Case for Universal Service • 101

from some highly placed congressional Democrats, and ideological cent to 45 percent, and for Congress from 40 percent to 29 percent,
hostility on the part of right-wing Republicans combined to constrict the percentage expressing confidence in the military rose from under
national service to a fraction of Clinton’s original vision. While sup- 30 percent to 78 percent. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, the confidence
port for the program has expanded and outright opposition has in the military rose from 20 percent to 64 percent. (Remarkably,
diminished in the decade since its inception, opportunities to serve these figures reflect sentiment in late 2002, before our impressive vic-
are still much less plentiful than they ought to be. tory in Iraq.)
Scholarly research is my second path to universal service. I am a While these gains in institutional performance and public confi-
university professor who studies patterns of citizenship and civic dence are impressive, they hardly end the discussion. As every reader
engagement, especially among young Americans. Even a casual glance of Machiavelli (or the Second Amendment) knows, the organization
at trends over the past three decades reveals that something has gone of the military is embedded in larger issues of citizenship and civic
awry. While young people are more highly educated than ever and life. It is along these dimensions that the decision to create the AVF
have access to far more information, they tend to know less about has entailed significant costs. First, the AVF reflects and has con-
their country, pay less attention to news about public affairs, and par- tributed to the development of what I call optional citizenship, the
ticipate less energetically in political and civic life than did earlier gen- belief that being a citizen involves rights without responsibilities and
erations of American youth. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that that we need do for our country only that which we choose.
lowered expectations of citizens have contributed to this decline and Numerous studies have documented the rise of individual choice as
that higher expectations are part of the solution. Universal service the dominant norm of contemporary American culture, and many
would express, in a particularly vivid and effective way, our collective young people today believe being a good person—decent, kind, car-
decision to reinvigorate citizenship. ing, and tolerant—is all it takes to be a good citizen. This duty-free
My third route to universal service is military service. I came of age as understanding of citizenship is comfortable and undemanding; it is
the Vietnam War was at its peak, was drafted out of graduate school in also profoundly mistaken.
late 1968, and spent two years as an enlisted man in the U.S. Marine Second, the AVF contributes to what I call spectator citizenship—
Corps. The Vietnam-era military draft was widely regarded as arbitrary the premise that good citizens can simply watch others doing the
and unfair, and it was held responsible for dissension within the military public’s work on their behalf. This outlook makes it possible to
as well as the wider society. In the immediate wake of its disaster in decouple the question of whether we as a nation should do X from
Vietnam, the United States made a historic decision to end the draft and the question of whether I would do or participate in X. In a discus-
institute an All-Volunteer Force (AVF). sion with his students during the Gulf War, Cheyney Ryan, professor
On one level, it’s hard to argue with success. The formula of high- of philosophy at the University of Oregon, was struck by “how many
quality volunteers, plus intensive training, plus investment in state- of them saw no connection between whether the country should go
of-the-art equipment, has produced the most formidable military in to war and whether they would ... be willing to fight in it.” A similar
history by far. Evidence suggests that the military’s performance, espe- disconnection exists today. Far higher percentages of young adults
cially since 1990, has bolstered public trust and confidence. For support the war against Iraq than would be willing to serve in it
example, a recent Gallup survey of public opinion trends since the themselves.
end of the Vietnam War in 1975 indicates that while the share of Finally, the AVF has widened the gap between the orientation and
Americans expressing confidence in religious leaders fell from 68 per- experience of military personnel and the citizenry as a whole. This is
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an empirically contested area, but some facts are indisputable. First, “[E]veryone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the
since the inauguration of the AVF, the share of officers identifying benefit, and the fact of living in society renders it indispensable that
themselves as Republicans has nearly doubled, from 33 percent to 64 each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct toward the
percent. (To be sure, officers were always technically volunteers, but rest. This conduct consists, first, in not injuring the interests of one
the threat of the draft significantly affected young men’s willingness another, or rather certain interests which, either by express legal provi-
to volunteer for officer candidacy.) Second, and more significantly, sion or by tacit understanding, ought to be considered as rights; and
the share of elected officials with military experience has declined secondly, in each person’s bearing his share (to be fixed on some equi-
sharply. From 1900 through 1975, the percentage of members of table principle) of the labors and sacrifices incurred for defending the
Congress who were veterans was always higher than in the compara- society or its members from injury and molestation. These conditions
ble age cohort of the general population. Since the mid-1990s the society is justified in enforcing at all costs to those who endeavor to
congressional percentage has been lower, and it continues to fall. withhold fulfillment.”
Lack of military experience does not necessarily imply hostility to
the military. Rather, it means ignorance of the nature of military serv- It is not difficult to recast Mill’s position in the vocabulary of con-
ice, as well as diminished capacity and confidence to assess claims that temporary liberal political thought. Begin with a conception of soci-
military leaders make. (It is no accident that of all the postwar presi- ety as a system of cooperation for mutual advantage. Society is legit-
dents, Dwight Eisenhower was clearly the most capable of saying no imate when the criterion of mutual advantage is broadly satisfied
to the military’s strategic assessments and requests for additional (versus, say, a situation in which the government or some group sys-
resources.) tematically coerces some for the sake of others). When society meets
For all these reasons, I believe we should dramatically expand the standard of broad legitimacy, each citizen has a duty to do his or
AmeriCorps, the flagship program of the Corporation for National her fair share to sustain the social arrangements from which all ben-
and Community Service. At the same time, we should reconsider the efit, and society is justified in using its coercive power when neces-
decision we made 30 years ago to institute an all-volunteer military. I sary to ensure that this duty is performed. That legitimate societal
hasten to add that I do not favor reinstituting anything like the coercion may include mandatory military service in the nation’s
Vietnam-era draft. It is hard to see how a reasonable person could defense, as well as other required activities that promote broad civic
prefer that fatally flawed system to today’s arrangement. The ques- goals.
tion, rather, is whether feasible reforms could preserve the gains of the Brookings scholar Robert Litan has recently suggested that citizens
past 30 years while more effectively promoting active, responsible cit- should be “required to give something to their country in exchange
izenship across the full range of our social, economic, and cultural for the full range of rights to which citizenship entitles them.”
differences. Responding in a quasi-libertarian vein, Bruce Chapman, founder and
Classical liberals will object, of course, on the grounds that it would president of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, charges that this
be an abuse of state power to move toward mandatory universal serv- proposal has “no moral justification.” Linking rights to concrete
ice. It is worth noting, however, that one of the high priests of classi- responsibilities, he says, is “contrary to the purposes for which [the
cal liberalism disagrees. Consider the opening sentences of Chapter 4 United States] was founded and has endured.” This simply isn't true.
of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, titled “Of the Limits to the For example, the right to receive GI Bill benefits is linked to the ful-
Authority of Society Over the Individual”: fillment of military duties. Even the right to vote (and what could be
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more central to citizenship than that?) rests on being law-abiding; Second, all citizens should understand that citizenship is an office,
many states disenfranchise convicted felons during their period of not just a status. As an office, citizenship confers both rights and
incarceration and probation. As Litan points out, this linkage is hard- duties—indeed, sometimes both simultaneously. Service on juries is
ly tyrannical moralism. Rather, it reflects the bedrock reality that “the simultaneously a right, in the sense that there is a strong presumption
rights we enjoy are not free” and that it takes real work—contribu- against exclusion, and a duty, in the sense that there is a strong pre-
tions from citizens—to sustain constitutional institutions. sumption against evasion. To move jury duty into the category of vol-
If each individual’s ownership of his or her own labor is seen as untary, compensated acts would be to remove one of the last
absolute, then society as such becomes impossible, because no political reminders that citizenship is more than a legal status.
community can operate without resources, which ultimately must come I would also offer an argument based on civic self-respect. From the
from someone. Public choice theory predicts, and all of human history standpoint of military competence, we might do just as well to
proves, that no polity of any size can subsist through voluntary contri- engage foreigners (the All-Mercenary Armed Forces), as kings and
butions alone; the inevitable free riders must be compelled by law, princes did regularly during the 18th century. The cost might well be
backed by force, to do their part. lower and the military performance just as high. Besides, if we hire
Still, the proponents of a free market/individual choice model foreigners to pick our crops, why shouldn’t we hire them to do our
might reasonably argue that if a noncoercive approach to military fighting?
and civilian service can get the job done, there are no valid grounds There is also a moral argument to consider: Even if a mercenary
for legal compulsion. To understand this argument’s shortcomings, army were reliable and effective, it would be wrong, perhaps shame-
consider the analogy (or disanalogy) between national service and ful, to use our wealth to get noncitizens to fight for us. This is some-
domestic law enforcement. The latter is divided into two subcate- thing we should do for ourselves as a self-respecting people. A simi-
gories: voluntary activities (there’s no draft for police officers) and lar moral principle applies as well in the purely domestic sphere,
mandatory responsibilities (e.g., jury duty). Our current system of among citizens.
national service is all “police” and no “jury.” If we conducted Consider military recruitment during the Civil War. In April 1861
domestic law enforcement on that model of service, we’d have what President Lincoln called for, and quickly received, 75,000 volunteers.
might be called the “All-Volunteer Jury,” in which we’d pay enough But hopes for a quick and easy Union victory were soon dashed, and
to ensure that the law enforcement system had a steady flow of the first conscription act was passed in March 1863. The act con-
jurors. tained two opt-out provisions: An individual facing conscription
There are two compelling reasons not to move in this direction. could pay a $300 fee to avoid a specific draft notice, or he could
First, citizens who self-select for jury duty would be likely to be avoid service altogether by paying a substitute to volunteer for three
unrepresentative of the population as a whole. Those who incur high years.
opportunity costs (the gainfully employed, for example) would tend This law created a complex pattern of individual incentives and
not to show up. The same considerations that militate against forced unanticipated social outcomes, such as anti-conscription riots among
exclusion of racial and ethnic groups from jury pools should weigh urban workers. Setting these aside, was there anything wrong in prin-
equally against voluntary self-exclusion based on income or employ- ciple with these opt-out provisions? I think so. In the first place, there
ment status. (We should ask ourselves why these considerations do was an obvious distributional unfairness: The well-off could afford to
not apply to the composition of the military.) avoid military service, while the poor and the working class couldn’t.
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Historian James McPherson observes that the slogan “a rich man’s The separation is more than economic. The sons and daughters of
fight, but a poor man’s war” had a powerful impact, particularly the upper-middle classes grow up in a cultural milieu in which cer-
among impoverished Irish laborers already chafing against the con- tain assumptions tend to be taken for granted. Often, college experi-
tempt with which they were regarded by the Protestant elite. Second, ences reinforce rather than challenge these assumptions. Since
even if income and wealth had been more nearly equal, there would Vietnam, moreover, many elite colleges and universities have held the
have been something wrong in principle with the idea that dollars military at arm’s length, ending ROTC curricula and banning cam-
could purchase exemption from an important civic duty. As pus-based military recruitment. As a Vietnam-era draftee, I can attest
McPherson notes, this provision suffered a poor reputation after the to the role military service plays in expanding mutual awareness
Civil War, and the designers of the World War I-era Selective Service across cultural lines. This process is not always pleasant or pretty, but
Act were careful not to repeat it. it does pull against the smug incomprehension of the privileged.
We can now ask: What is the difference between the use of person- In an evocative letter to his sons, Brookings scholar Stephen Hess
al resources to opt out of military service and the impact of personal reflects on his experiences as a draftee and defends military service as
resources (or lack thereof ) on the decision to opt in? As a practical a vital socializing experience for children from fortunate families. His
and a moral matter, the difference is less than the current system’s argument is instructive: “Being forced to be the lowest rank …, serv-
defenders would like to believe. To begin with, the decision to imple- ing for long enough that you can’t clearly see ‘the light at the end of
ment the AVF has profoundly affected the military’s educational and the tunnel,’ is as close as you will ever come to being a member of
class composition. During World War II and the Korean War society’s underclass. To put it bluntly, you will feel in your gut what
(indeed, through the early 1960s), roughly equal percentages of high it means to be at the bottom of the heap. … Why should you want
school and college graduates served in the military, and about one- to be deprived of your individuality? You shouldn’t, of course. But
third of college graduates were in the enlisted (that is, nonofficer) many people are, and you should want to know how this feels, espe-
ranks. Today, enlisted men and women are rarely college graduates, cially if you some day have some responsibility over the lives of other
and elite colleges other than the service academies are far less likely to people.” It’s a matter not just of compassion, Hess continues, but of
produce military personnel of any rank, officer or enlisted. As a recent respect: “The middle-class draftee learns to appreciate a lot of talents
lengthy feature story in The New York Times put it, today’s military (and the people who have them) that are not part of the lives you
“mirrors a working-class America.” Most of the young American men have known, and, after military duty, will know again for the rest of
and women dying in Iraq represent working-class families from small- your lives. This will come from being thrown together with—and
town and rural America. having to depend on—people who are very different from you and
Many have argued that this income skew is a virtue, not a vice, your friends.”
because the military extends good career opportunities to young men A modern democracy, in short, combines a high level of legal equal-
and women whose prospects are otherwise limited. There’s something ity with an equally high level of economic and social stratification. It
to this argument, of course. But the current system purchases social is far from inevitable, or even natural, that democratic leaders drawn
mobility at the expense of social integration. Today’s privileged young disproportionately from the upper ranks of society will understand
people tend to grow up hermetically sealed from the rest of society. the experiences or respect the contributions of those from the lower
Episodic volunteering in soup kitchens doesn’t really break the seal. ranks. It takes integrative experiences to bring this about. In a socie-
Military service is one of the few experiences that can. ty in which economic class largely determines residence and educa-
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tion and in which the fortunate will not willingly associate with the Creating this program would be neither cheap nor easy. But con-
rest, only nonvoluntary institutions cutting across class lines can hope sider that we have spent decades creating programs that enhance
to provide such experiences. If some kind of sustained mandatory individual self-improvement, consumption, and choice. If we work as
service doesn’t fill this bill, it is hard to see what will. hard to foster an ethic of contribution and reciprocity, we can create
It is one thing to invoke civic arguments in favor of universal serv- a richer civic culture that summons, in the words of Lincoln, the bet-
ice, quite another to make them real. As we reconsider the all-volun- ter angels of our nature.
teer recruitment model for armed service, we should also return to
Clinton’s vision of national service as a package of responsibilities and
privileges available to every young American. AmeriCorps has sur-
vived repeated efforts to strangle it in the cradle and now enjoys broad
bipartisan support. It is time to put our civic money where our civic
mouth is—to move steadily from today’s quota of 75,000 partici-
pants each year to a system in which there’s a place for every young
American who wants to serve his or her country.
Granted, the financial and administrative burdens of incorporat-
ing more than 3 million young people into civilian or military serv-
ice each year would be prohibitive, at least in the short run. A rea-
sonable goal would be to build over the next decade toward a sys-
tem that offers 12- to 18-month service opportunities for at least 20
percent of each cohort of physically and mentally eligible 18-year-
olds. A random lottery from which only a small percentage are
excluded would be (and I believe would be seen as) a fair selection
Military manpower requirements would take priority in allocating
the service pool thus created. Young people, both in and outside of
the pool, could still volunteer for military service, just as they do now.
If all slots in the armed forces were filled, the remaining members of
that year’s service pool would choose among civilian options. If young
people did not volunteer in sufficient numbers to satisfy the military’s
needs, the armed forces would select from among the rest of the pool,
for a period of service not to exceed 18 months.
The service pool would function as a floor rather than a ceiling. If
18-year-olds outside the pool wanted to volunteer, they would be
guaranteed full-time service opportunities, although they might not
have access to their preferred choices.
The Voluntary Path to Universal Service • 111


The Voluntary Path
to Universal Service

n just over a decade, AmeriCorps has proved its worth
in communities around the country and has secured a
small but vital beachhead in national policy. Its
impressive track record, together with growing public and
political support, points to the possibility of a breakout
that could take national service to truly national scale.
National service ought to be more than a small
demonstration project on the margins of big govern-
ment. It must take a great leap forward or risk going the
way of the Peace Corps and VISTA, noble endeavors
that languished after an initial burst of inspiration and
failed to reach critical mass.
Why is bigger better? The first and most compelling rea-
son for expansion is to match the scale of America’s unmet
needs. Our country’s “social deficit” is as daunting as our
fiscal deficit. Compared with other rich countries, the
United States has very high rates of poverty (especially
among children), out-of-wedlock births, and youth vio-
lence, as well as a wide racial and ethnic gap in education-
al achievement. Add to these enduring social problems the
new challenges presented by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and
112 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E The Voluntary Path to Universal Service • 113

the baby boom’s retirement, and you have a “to do” list that overwhelms waiting lists. Scaling up AmeriCorps would transform national
government’s current capacities. We need to mobilize the nation’s civic service from an exceptional to a fairly common experience for
resources more broadly to tackle such urgent priorities as: young Americans. And, like the draft of old, it would be one of the
few institutions in our increasingly stratified and segmented socie-
• Tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged children, especially those ty that throw together Americans from different social and eco-
from broken families and those with parents in prison. nomic backgrounds. The experience of working together across
racial, ethnic, and class lines to solve common problems hones the
• Providing long-term care and other help for the elderly to help basic skills of democratic citizenship—the ability to see past
America age successfully as the baby boomers retire. stereotypes, to empathize with others, to negotiate and compro-
mise, and to transcend our group identities. In political scientist
• Protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks. Robert Putnam’s term, it creates the “bridging” social capital essen-
tial to making a multiethnic democracy work.
• Sharing the burden of military service to our country.
AmeriCorps’ New Democrat architects envisioned it in the late 1980s
as a way to mobilize citizen volunteers to tackle national problems that Our ultimate goal should be to make national service a common
neither government agencies nor private markets could solve by them- expectation—a rite of civic passage—for young Americans on their
selves. Since then, Americans have become more attuned to the possibil- way to responsible and productive citizenship. Here are five ways we
ity of tackling public problems through new partnerships between the can reach the next plateau in the evolution of national service:
formal public sector and the informal realm of civic and voluntary groups
(including faith-based organizations). National service is a prime exam- Replace Selective Service with National Service
ple of this new, hybrid form of public activism—a decentralized, non- When Congress created the All-Volunteer Force in 1973, it kept one
bureaucratic way to grapple with a wide array of national challenges. vestige of the old World War II-era draft: the requirement that all
A second reason to expand national service lies in its unique charac- American males register with the Selective Service System on their 18th
ter as a dual public investment in America’s human capital. First, birthdays. Registration is a hedge against the unlikely, but hardly
national service volunteers do work that helps to improve the lives of unthinkable, prospect that America may one day need to mobilize for
tens of thousands of needy Americans each day. Second, volunteers full-scale war. With a little imagination, the Selective Service System
earn education awards that encourage them to attend college and could be recast as a recruiting device for voluntary national service, as
defray at least some of its costs. Imagine how much a vastly bigger well as a register of the nation’s available manpower.1 Specifically, we
service enterprise, with a more generous education award, could mag- should replace Selective Service with a National Service System that
nify these social and economic returns. recruits young men and women to serve their country in one of three
There’s a third reason to enlarge AmeriCorps: to give more ways: in the military’s new, short-term “citizen soldier” enlistment pro-
Americans a chance to serve their country. The demand for service gram; in AmeriCorps; or in the Peace Corps, which should become a
positions far outstrips the supply. Many of the best-known service vital component of U.S. efforts to promote political and economic free-
programs, such as Teach for America and City Year, have large dom abroad.
114 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E The Voluntary Path to Universal Service • 115

The new system would channel volunteers into these three streams most significant change in recruiting since the creation of the All-
of service and handle post-service education awards. As an added Volunteer Force.5 Conceived by Northwestern University sociologist
incentive to serve, public and private colleges should be encouraged to Charles Moskos and shepherded into law by Senators McCain and
favor applicants who agree to perform national service over applicants Bayh, the citizen-soldier option is intended to help meet our growing
who choose the registration-only option.2 personnel demands by offering America's youth a voluntary equiva-
lent of the draft: a way to serve their country in uniform without
Expand AmeriCorps choosing a military career.
President Bush deserves credit for carrying through on his prom- The new option enables volunteers to sign up for 15 months of serv-
ise to enlarge AmeriCorps from 50,000 to 75,000 members. But ice on active duty followed by 24 months in the reserves—a radical
while it’s gratifying to see a Republican president leading his party departure from the four- and five-year active duty enlistments that are
toward a belated embrace of President Clinton’s signature program, now the norm. A look at the initial class of 3,600 recruits suggests that
we shouldn’t stop there. In their bipartisan Call to Service bill, the program is already beginning to fulfill its promise. The short-term
Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) set a more program has a much higher percentage of college-educated and college-
ambitious goal: increasing AmeriCorps to 250,000 members a bound enlistees than traditional enlistment programs. It is also provid-
year, at a cost of about $15 billion, spread out over eight years. In ing immediate relief to the active-duty military positions experiencing
addition to investing more in the missions that AmeriCorps now the greatest manpower shortages and is on track to deliver experienced
tackles—tutoring students, constructing houses, vaccinating chil- soldiers into a reserve force stretched thin by frequent mobilizations
dren, providing disaster relief—we should also test ways that since 9/11. National service advocates should urge the president and the
national service can be harnessed to meet the daunting new chal- Defense Department to support both a larger military and a more ambi-
lenges of homeland security. tious recruiting goal for this innovative program: Twenty-five thousand
As we expand service opportunities for young Americans, we should citizen-soldiers per year by 2008 and 75,000 per year by 2012.
not neglect the coming wave of baby boom retirees. A recent opinion
survey shows that the percentage of Americans nearing retirement who Replace Work Study with Serve Study
are interested in a year or more of service increases fourfold to almost The federal Work Study program helps nearly 1 million students
50 percent if they are offered a structured service environment, a small pay for college at a cost of $1 billion a year. According to Harris
monthly stipend, and the choice of an education or health-care bene- Wofford, former Pennsylvania senator and former chief executive offi-
fit.3 Building on the success of the Senior Corps and the Experience cer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Work
Corps, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has proposed organizing Study was designed to provide low- and middle-income students with
a large-scale “Boomer Corps” to enable the boomers to help them- additional money to pay for college and increase the number of stu-
selves meet the challenges of healthy and successful aging and give dents participating in community service. Yet the overwhelming
something back to their country.4 majority of Work Study students today do their service on campus,
not in the community. In effect, they constitute an enormous pool of
Recruit More Citizen-Soldiers cheap labor for college administrators.
In October 2003, the military began taking in its first recruits Under current law, only 7 percent of Work Study participants are
through the new “citizen-solider” short-term enlistment program, the required to work in community service. To its credit, the Bush admin-
116 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E The Voluntary Path to Universal Service • 117

istration has proposed boosting that to 50 percent by the end of the youths who performed (or committed themselves to perform)
decade. That would mean an additional 250,000 students serving in national service. In this way, the plan sought to spur large numbers
their communities each year, at virtually no new cost to taxpayers. of young Americans to volunteer to serve rather than conscripting
This idea, however, has provoked scorched earth resistance from them into a mandatory service scheme.
college administrators and the powerful higher education lobby, In a more recent variation on this theme, PPI has proposed consol-
who claim a shift from campus-based work to service in communi- idating various federal tax provisions into a single, turbo-charged
ties would interfere with students’ education. But a University of College Tax Credit that would provide a $3,000-a-year credit to stu-
California-Los Angeles study conducted in 2000 suggests that part- dents for four years of college and two years of graduate school, pro-
time service activities, far from being a burden on college students, vided that they agree to perform service in return.7
yield positive outcomes, including better performance in the class- If lawmakers do nothing else, they should at least fix one big flaw
room.6 National service advocates and the White House should join in the 1993 legislation that created AmeriCorps: The education
forces to insist that Congress not wait another year to begin the award was set far too low. At $4,750 for a year of service, it is not
process of replacing mandatory on-campus jobs with real service even enough to cover tuition and fees at a four-year public college,
opportunities for students. which now averages $5,132. It’s time for Congress to raise this pal-
try amount to at least $10,000 a year so that two years of full-time
Link Federal Student Aid and National Service service would cover the average cost of four years of tuition and fees
Finally, it’s time to revisit a key principle of the original at a public college or university. This would make service more
Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) blueprint: linking federal attractive, especially to youths from low-income families. It also
student aid and national service. As Moskos has pointed out, the would help students avoid heavy borrowing and promote personal
United States today has “a GI Bill without GIs.” That is, the fed- responsibility by reinforcing the connection between individual
eral government spends lots of money—about $26 billion in effort and reward.
2005—on grants and loan subsidies for students. But, whereas the
GI Bill rewarded returning World War II veterans for their service CONCLUSION
to the nation, college aid asks little in return, other than that stu-
dents repay their loans. If adopted, these five steps for taking voluntary national service to
At a time when college costs are rising faster than inflation and a scale would move us closer to the ideal of universal service. And it
college education has become a minimal credential for success in would do so without raising the specter of conscription and all the
the knowledge economy, increased public support for families with practical, moral, and political questions it raises. By bringing tens, and
modest means makes sense. But rather than give the aid away, we eventually hundreds, of thousands of willing citizens together to meet
should make it an “earned entitlement.” Specifically, Washington the great challenges of our time, we will hasten the day when it will
ought to emulate the GI Bill of Rights and add an element of rec- become routine for Americans to ask each other: What did you do for
iprocity by requiring those who benefit to give something back to your national service?
their country through national service, civilian or military. The Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) has argued persuasively that the nation’s
DLC plan would have replaced federal Pell and other grants with a leaders missed a historic opportunity after 9/11 to summons the “X
$10,000 post-service reward and limited student loans to eligible and Y generations” to national service: “They are ready to do great
118 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E The Voluntary Path to Universal Service • 119

things. But we don’t ask anything of them. They have not been chal- ENDNOTES
It’s not too late to rectify that mistake, by issuing a new summons to 1
For a detailed discussion of this proposal, see Magee, Marc, 2003, From
active citizenship through national service. Selective Service to National Service: A Blueprint for Citizenship and Security in the
21st Century, Washington: Progressive Policy Institute.

This preference could be modeled on the veterans’ preference in civil service
applications. To reflect the greater risk inherent in military service, those who
choose service in the armed forces could be provided with additional considera-
tion. Participation by colleges and universities would, of course, be voluntary.

While only 13 percent of Americans 55 and older said they were interested in
volunteering 15 hours a week or more during their retirement, the number
increased four-fold to 49 percent for a national service program with a structured
service environment, a small monthly stipend, and the choice of an education or
health care benefit, according to a 2002 Hart Research Associates Poll cited in
Civic Ventures, 2002, The New Face of Retirement: Older Americans, Civic
Engagement, and the Longevity Revolution, Washington.

For a detailed discussion of the Boomer Corps proposal see Magee, Marc,
2003, Boomer Corps: Activating Seniors for National Service, Washington:
Progressive Policy Institute.

For a detailed discussion of the National Call to Serve enlistment program see
Magee, Marc and Steven J. Nider, 2002, Citizen Soldiers and the War on Terror,
Washington: Progressive Policy Institute. For benchmarks on how to scale up
this new program, see Magee, Marc and Steven J. Nider, 2003, Uncle Sam Wants
You! … For 18 Months: Benchmarks for a Successful Citizen Soldier Program,
Washington: Progressive Policy Institute.

Asti, Alexander W., Lori J. Vogelgesang, Elaine K. Ikeda, and Jennifer A. Yee,
2000, How Service Learning Affects Students, Higher Education Research
Institute, University of California-Los Angeles.

Weinstein, Paul Jr., 2003, Universal Access to College Through Tax Reform,
Washington: Progressive Policy Institute.
120 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E National Service: A Chronology • 121

College Work Study programs are established, providing new opportu-
National Service: A Chronology nities for students to work their way through college while serving their

1906 1976
American philosopher William James outlines his vision for nation- California Gov. Jerry Brown establishes the California Conservation
al service in his essay “The Moral Equivalent of War.” Corps, the first state-based youth service corps.

1933 February 1988
President Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the Civilian Conservation Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) delivers a speech and hosts a panel on
Corps (CCC), which over the next decade provides millions of young national service at the Democratic Leadership Council’s (DLC)
men the chance to serve six to 18 months helping themselves and annual conference in Williamsburg, Va. The conference introduces
their families while restoring the nation’s parks and revitalizing the the national service concept to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.
April 1988
1944 The DLC publishes the book Citizenship and National Service, by
The GI Bill (officially the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944) is Will Marshall, providing an analysis of the need for national service
signed into law, providing millions of veterans of World War II the and outlining a comprehensive national service proposal.
opportunity to go to college in return for service to their country.
October 1988
1960s The DLC sponsors a two-week National Service tour featuring
Demonstration projects are launched for the Retired and Senior Democratic vice presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen, Sens. Barbara
Volunteer Program (RSVP), the Foster Grandparent Program, and Mikulski (D-Md.), J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), and Nunn, Rep.
the Senior Companion Program (collectively known today as Senior Mike Espy (D-Miss.), future Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy
Corps). Townsend, and Northwestern University sociologist Charles Moskos.

1960-1961 1990
Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy proposes estab- President George H.W. Bush signs the National and Community Service
lishment of the Peace Corps on Oct. 14, 1960. After his election, Act of 1990 into law, providing grants to schools to support service-
Congress authorizes it on Sept. 22, 1961. learning and demonstration grants for national service programs.

1964 October 1991
President Lyndon B. Johnson creates VISTA (Volunteers in Service to Former DLC chairman Clinton launches his presidential campaign
America). with a Georgetown University speech in which he calls for a "new
122 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E National Service: A Chronology • 123

covenant" and the establishment of a voluntary system of national January 2004
service. AmeriCorps receives record funding to grow to 75,000 members.

September 1993
Congress passes the National and Community Service Trust Act,
based on President Clinton’s proposal, establishing the Corporation
for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps.

September 1994
The first class of 25,000 AmeriCorps members begins its year of serv-
ice. Four National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) campuses
open in Aberdeen, Md.; Charleston, S.C.; Denver; and San Diego.

November 2001
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), DLC chairman, and Sen. John McCain (R-
Ariz.) introduce the Call to Service Act, which would dramatically
expand the scope of national service.

January 2002
In his State of the Union Message, President George W. Bush calls on
every American to devote 4,000 hours to service during his or her
lifetime. He also proposes to expand AmeriCorps by 50 percent to
increase the opportunities for service.

December 2002
Congress passes a defense authorization bill for fiscal 2003 that
includes a short-term “citizen soldier” enlistment program drawn
from the Bayh-McCain bill. This option allows volunteers to serve
their country in uniform without pursuing a military career.

Fall 2003
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sen.
John Edwards (D-N.C.), and Gen. Wesley Clark make expanding
national service a key element of their campaigns, elevating it for the first
time to one of the major issues in the Democratic primary debate.
124 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Recommended Resources • 125

Thomson, Ann Marie, and James L. Perry, “Can AmeriCorps
Build Communities?” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly,
Recommended Resources No. 27, 1998.

Wofford, Harris, and Steven Waldman, “AmeriCorps the Beautiful?”
BOOKS Policy Review, Oct. 1, 1996.

Perry, James L., and Ann Marie Thomson, Civic Service: What REPORTS
Difference Does It Make?, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2004.
Abt Associates Inc., AmeriCorps Tutoring Outcomes Study,
Dionne, E.J. Jr., Kayla Meltzer Drogosz, and Robert E. Litan, editors, Washington: Corporation for National Service, 2001.
United We Serve: National Service and the Future of Citizenship,
Brookings Institution Press, 2003. Abt Associates Inc., Serving Country and Community: A Study of
Service in AmeriCorps. A Profile of AmeriCorps Members at Baseline,
Waldman, Steven, The Bill: How Legislation Really Becomes Law: A Washington: Corporation for National Service, 2001.
Case Study of the National Service Bill, New York: Viking
Penguin, 1995. Abt Associates Inc., Descriptive Study of AmeriCorps Literacy
Programs: State and National, Washington: Corporation for
Buckley, William F. Jr., Gratitude, New York: Random House, 1990. National Service, 1999.

Moskos, Charles C., A Call to Civic Service: National Service for Aguirre International, AmeriCorps*State/National Direct Five Year
Country and Community, New York: The Free Press, 1988. Evaluation Report: A Follow-Up, Washington: Corporation for
National Service, 1999.
Marshall, Will, Citizenship and National Service: A Blueprint for Civic
Enterprise, Washington: Democratic Leadership Council, 1988. Aguirre International, Making a Difference: Impact of Ameri-
Corps*State/National Direct on Members and Communities 1994-
Danzig, Richard, and Peter L. Szanton, National Service: What Would 95 and 1995-96, Washington: Corporation for National Service,
It Mean? Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1986. 1999.

JOURNAL ARTICLES Decker, Paul T., Daniel P. Mayer, and Steven Glazerman, The Effects
of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Study,
Perry, James L., Ann Marie Thomson, Mary Tschirhart, Debra Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, 2004.
Mesch, and Geunjoo Lee, “Inside a Swiss Army Knife: An
Assessment of AmeriCorps,” Journal of Public Administration Macro International Inc., Study of Race, Class, and Ethnicity, Final
Research and Theory, April 1, 1999. Report, Washington: Corporation for National Service, 1997.
126 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Contributors • 127

U. S. General Accounting Office (GAO), Corporation for National
and Community Service: Better Internal Control and Revised Practices
Would Improve the Management of AmeriCorps and the National
Service Trust, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2004.
U. S. General Accounting Office (GAO), National Service Programs: David Eisner is chief executive officer of the Corporation for National
Status of AmeriCorps Reform Efforts, Washington: U.S. Government and Community Service. He was appointed by President Bush and
Printing Office, 1997. began serving in December 2003. Eisner has focused on strengthening
the corporation’s accountability, improving customer service, and
U. S. General Accounting Office (GAO), National Service Programs: increasing public trust. From 1997 until 2003, Eisner was a vice presi-
Role of State Commissions in Implementing the AmeriCorps Program, dent at AOL Time Warner, where he directed the company’s charitable
Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1997. foundation. Before that, he was a senior vice president of Fleishman-
Hilliard International Communications and managed public relations
at the Legal Services Corp. He began his career on Capitol Hill, serving
as press secretary for three members of Congress. A graduate of Stanford
University, Eisner received his law degree from Georgetown University
Law Center. He and his wife, Lori, live in Bethesda, Md., with their four

William A. Galston is the Saul I. Stern professor of civic engagement
and the director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the
University of Maryland. Galston was deputy assistant to the president
for domestic policy during the first Clinton administration and execu-
tive director of the National Commission on Civic Renewal. He has
served as director of economic and social programs at the Roosevelt
Center for American Policy Studies in Washington, as chief speech
writer for John Anderson's presidential campaign, as issues director for
Walter Mondale's presidential campaign, and as senior adviser to Al
Gore during his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in
1988. Since 1995, Galston has served as a founding member of the
Board of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and as
chairman of the campaign's Task Force on Religion and Public Values.

Stephen Goldsmith is chairman of the Manhattan Institute’s Center
for Civic Innovation, and the Daniel Paul professor of government
128 • T H E A M E R I C O R P S E X P E R I M E N T AND THE FUTURE OF N AT I O N A L S E RV I C E Contributors • 129

and director of the Innovations in American Government program at Service, which helped lay the groundwork for the AmeriCorps
Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. In addition, national service system created by President Clinton. Marshall was
Goldsmith is the chairman of the Corporation for National and present at the creation of the Democratic Leadership Council, serv-
Community Service. Previously, Goldsmith served two terms as ing as its first policy director. He has worked in two U.S. Senate cam-
mayor of Indianapolis. As mayor, he reduced government spending, paigns and held several posts on Capitol Hill, including speechwriter
cut the city’s bureaucracy, held the line on taxes, eliminated counter- and policy analyst for Rep. Gillis Long (D-La.) Previously, Marshall
productive regulations, and identified more than $400 million in sav- was a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. A graduate of the
ings. Prior to his two terms as mayor, he was Marion County prose- University of Virginia, he and his wife, Katryn S. Nicolai, live in
cutor for 12 years. A graduate of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Arlington, Va., with their two children.
Ind., he received his J.D. from the University of Michigan.
Susan Stroud is the founder and executive director of Innovations
Marc Porter Magee is research director of the Partnership for in Civic Participation. She was one of the White House architects of
Public Service, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the National and Community Trust Act of 1993. She served in sen-
public service by inspiring a new generation to serve, and to trans- ior positions at the Corporation for National and Community
forming the way government works. At the partnership, Magee Service to implement AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America.
leads the development of a series of innovative research reports, Previously, she was the founding director of Campus Compact and
issue briefs, and research projects (such as the annual “Best Places the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University. Stroud
to Work in the Federal Government” rankings). Previously, Magee has also worked in several countries, most notably helping to create
served as director of the Progressive Policy Institute's (PPI) Center a network of university-based programs in South Africa and various
for Civic Enterprise and as a contributing editor of Blueprint, the service initiatives in Russia and Mexico. During 1998-2001 she con-
Democratic Leadership Council's journal of politics and policy. sulted with the Ford Foundation to help re-think the foundation’s
Prior to launching the Center for Civic Enterprise, Magee was a fel- work in service and chart a direction for the future. This process led
low at PPI while completing work on his National Science to an international conference in Costa Rica in January 2001, out of
Foundation-funded doctoral dissertation on civic engagement and which plans were developed for the Global Service Institute, which
social capital. A graduate of Georgetown University, he received his Stroud now co-directs with Michael Sherraden.
Ph.D. in sociology from Duke University. He and his wife,
Kathleen, live in Alexandria, Va. Steven Waldman is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Beliefnet, the
leading multifaith spirituality and religion website. Waldman has
Will Marshall is president and founder of the Progressive Policy broad experience as an editor, writer, and manager, most recently as
Institute (PPI), a center for policy innovation in Washington, D.C. national editor of U.S. News & World Report. Before that, he worked
Established in 1989, PPI's mission is to modernize progressive poli- for eight years in Newsweek’s Washington bureau, writing award-win-
tics and government for the Information Age. Marshall is editor of ning cover stories on a variety of social issues and serving as national
Building the Bridge: 10 Big Ideas to Transform America (Roman & correspondent and as a deputy editor. In 1986-87, he served as edi-
Littlefield, 1997), co-editor of Mandate for Change (Berkley Books, tor of The Washington Monthly, an influential political magazine.
1992) and author of the 1988 DLC book Citizenship and National Waldman also served as senior adviser to the chief executive of the

Corporation for National and Community Service. He is the author
of an acclaimed book, The Bill, about the passage of the AmeriCorps
law; it is now a textbook in college courses across the United States.

Related Interests