Participation in National Service Programs Increases Youth Voter Turnout
July 11, 2022
New York, July 11, 2022 — A new peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Dr. Cecilia Hyunjung Mo, Dr. John B. Holbein, and Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell Elder shows that civilian national service programs, like Teach For America (TFA), can meaningfully impact youth political participation and help to narrow the enduring political engagement gap between young and older citizens in the United States.
The study finds that, after serving with Teach For America for two years, program participants are 5.7 to 8.6 percentage points more likely to vote than similar, non-participant counterparts. The effect is 3-14 times larger than standard “get out the vote” programs and illustrates the role that national service programs can play in inspiring political participation from new generations.
“Young people in the United States have some of the lowest rates of civic engagement in the world, which ultimately impacts the strength and health of our democracy,” shared lead researcher Dr. Cecilia Hyunjung Mo. “Our results suggest that national service programs have the potential to help remediate low rates of youth turnout and, in turn, to improve the quality of representative government in the United States.”
Using internal Teach For America admissions data and national public voting records compiled by Data Trust, Mo, Holbein, and Elder compared voting rates of TFA applicants who barely exceeded TFA’s threshold admission score with those who barely missed the threshold score. They focused on voting records from the 2012 and 2014 elections with a sample of 28,662 potential voters.
The researchers found that the estimated effects of Teach For America on voter turnout are substantively meaningful and are similar for whites and non-whites and across several geographic areas in the United States. The effects appear to be larger for males than females and among those with higher rather than lower socioeconomic status, as measured by federal Pell Grant status.
“Teach For America recruits and develops game-changing leaders of all backgrounds to teach for at least two years in urban and rural communities and work throughout their lives to expand access and opportunity for young people,” shared Teach For America’s CEO, Elisa Villanueva Beard. “Getting proximate as an educator and seeing the brilliance of students in low-income communities and the many systemic challenges they face is truly life-changing. This new research highlights how that impact drives action. In addition to becoming more politically engaged, many of our alumni go on to lead in policy, advocacy, and organizing roles to address inequitable policies, structures, and practices.”
Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. Today, there are more than 66,000 Teach For America alumni and corps members working in partnership with urban and rural communities across the country to expand educational opportunity for children and pursue profound systemic change.
About Teach For America
Teach For America works in partnership with 350 urban and rural communities across the country to expand educational opportunity for children. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding leaders who make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today, Teach For America is a force of 66,000 alumni and corps members working in more than 9,000 schools nationwide in pursuit of profound systemic change. From classrooms to districts to state houses across America, they are reimagining education to realize the day when every child has an equal opportunity to learn, lead, thrive, and co-create a future filled with possibility. Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.