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Tufts University Research Center on Young Americans Endorses Report on Civic Engagement Inequality
Educational Testing Service Report Shows Large Gap in Civic Knowledge and Participation by Age, Education, Social Class
MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Today, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University endorsed a report released by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) this week that shows increasing gaps in civic participation among segments of the population, particularly when analyzed by age, educational attainment and household income. The report, “Fault Lines in Our Democracy: Civic Knowledge, Voting Behavior and Civic Engagement in the United States,” illustrates the results of five voting and volunteering activities that compose the Civic Engagement Index (CEI). Analysis of 300 subgroups in the 2010 midterm elections shows an unprecedented disparity between those that scored low on the CEI -- the young, low-income, high school dropout group -- and those that scored highest -- the older, highly educated and high-income group. According to the study, the CEI of the latter group was nearly seven times that of the former. “Youth civic engagement and civic knowledge are crucial issues,” said Peter Levine, Director of CIRCLE, who consulted on the report. “The ETS has issued a prominent analysis emphasizing unequal civic knowledge and engagement, which reflects a nationwide issue. Average levels of civic knowledge are not necessarily bad, but the tremendous gaps in civic participation are concerning.” However, the ETS finding that youth knowledge is "dismal" is open to debate, since it relies on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) in civics, an assessment of what American students know about various subject areas, which Levine helped design. Levine continued, “The NAEP cutoffs for ‘advanced’ and ‘proficient’ are essentially arbitrary, so it is not a fact that most youth lack proficiency; that is a value-judgment. The NAEP mainly measures understanding of constitutional law and formal politics, not current events, social issues or local affairs. The NAEP scores may indicate that young people's knowledge is reasonably good, but other topics that aren't measured on the NAEP are more difficult for youth -- especially current events.” Additional data from the ETS report can be found online, here, and highlights are available here. ### CIRCLE ( is a nonpartisan, independent, academic research center that studies young people in politics and presents detailed data on young voters in all 50 states.

CIRCLE was founded in 2001 with a generous gift from the Pew Charitable Trusts and is part of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University. CIRCLE's reputation for reliable, independent, timely research has been hailed by experts in the field of civic partnership, such as Harvard University professor Robert Putnam who said CIRCLE had brought "the best and most serious research to one place." The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service ( is a national leader whose model and research are setting the standard for higher education’s role in civic engagement education. Serving every school of Tufts University, Tisch College creates an enduring culture that prepares students to be lifelong active citizens. Tufts University (, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized as one of the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.

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