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MSU study: Civic acts rise with income, education

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Household income and education directly impact trends in volunteering and community engagement in Missouri and Springfield, according to a report released Oct. 26 by Missouri State
University and the National Conference on Citizenship. Other factors such as a shrinking blue-collar work force also weigh in to civic participation, according to the 2010 Missouri Civic Health Assessment.

Missouri outperforms national trends for volunteering at 29 percent, 24th nationwide; community engagement, 27 percent, 30th nationwide; and voter turnout, 66 percent in 2008–09, 23rd nationwide; but some forms of civic involvement, such as one-on-one interactions with neighbors, may be waning, the report stated.

“Usually, we think of our society’s health in terms of the markets and government,” said Michael Stout, the author of the report and assistant professor at MSU. “But this report looks at the social fabric of our society: the social networks that are key to providing access to collective resources needed to address Missouri’s problems.”

The Springfield metropolitan statistical area had higher rates of voter turnout and volunteering than Kansas City or St. Louis and a higher rate than the average for all metro areas. The Springfield area studied – Greene, Christian, Dallas, Polk and Webster counties – also led when it
came to working with neighbors to fix something in their community.

The Springfield MSA’s voter turnout during 2008–09 was 78 percent, compared to 61 percent in
Kansas City and 52 percent in St. Louis. The percentage of residents in Springfield who volunteered during the same time period was 32 percent, compared to 28 percent in St. Louis and 21 percent in Kansas City.

Income and involvement
The report found that household income levels have a strong influence on volunteer rates. For instance:
• Missouri households with incomes of $75,000 or more have a 23 percent higher volunteer rate than those with incomes less than $35,000.
• Missourians with family incomes more than $75,000 are more than three times as likely to have attended a public meeting than those with family incomes less than $35,000.
• The voting rate among Missourians with family incomes more than $75,000 is nearly 30 percentage points higher than the voting rate among Missourians with family incomes less than $35,000.

But Missourians without a college education are more likely than peers in other states to be a member of and hold a leadership position in a social group. Thus, the report concluded Missouri has a stronger blue-collar base for civic participation than other states.

However, Missouri shed nearly 79,000 blue-collar jobs in the last decade, and Stout fears this movement could impact the state’s civic engagement negatively.

The value of volunteers
Stout said business owners looking for a monetary value to volunteering should consider these statistics.

In Missouri between 2007 and 2009, about 159 million hours were volunteered; the average value of volunteer time was $18.70 per hour; and residents contributed $3.3 billion in volunteer service.

But state volunteer numbers have declined the last six years, the report stated. The top four volunteer activities are fundraising, 29 percent; collecting/distributing food, 27 percent; general labor, 22 percent; and tutoring/teaching, 19.5 percent. The state’s volunteers are most likely to participate through religious organizations, 38 percent; educational institutions, 24 percent; social service organizations, 13 percent; and hospitals, 9 percent. The categories are not all-inclusive.

“One of the things that NCoC (National Conference on Citizenship) has been promoting has been related to having a culture created within corporations and companies that actually promote and encourage employees to get involved with their communities, to donate money to the United
Way, for example, or to volunteer and serve on committees in their communities,” Stout said. “It helps to improve the communities by getting people to talk and discuss and do something about the issues their communities face, but it also kind of shows that corporations and companies can be good citizens.”

The Missouri Civic Health Assessment is the first of its kind and is designed to help document the state’s civic health.[[In-content Ad]]


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