Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

New study: better civic health means lower unemployment

Sept. 12, 2012, 9:37 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

A new study shows that civic health is directly linked to lower local unemployment in communities across the country

Released by the National Conference on Citizenship and supported by Knight, the study shows that communities with better civic health have weathered the recent economic recession better than others in similar circumstances. It also shows two key aspects - social cohesion (that is the level at which citizens trust, talk to and help neighbors and socialize with family and friends) and also the presence of a thriving nonprofit sector - are important factors in helping communities recover from economic hardships.

The research will be presented this week in Philadelphia during the National Conference on Citizenship’s 67th annual conference, which brings together civic leaders, educators, CEOs and government representatives to address issues related to our nation’s civic health.  

The study builds on the work of Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community study, a three-year survey in collaboration with Gallup, which showed a connection between community attachment and economic prosperity. Previous research from the National Conference on Citizenship’s Civic Health Index showed the relationship between civic engagement and lower unemployment rates and economic resiliency.

However, this new research further explored the connection between community attachment and civic engagement. By better understanding the connection, policymakers and community leaders can better understand how investing in projects that strengthen community attachment will result in economically resilient communities.

Leading up to the conference, Knight’s Strategic Initiatives Associate, Jeff Coates, will discuss the study and its impact on HuffPost Live at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 13.

Also at this year’s conference, the winners of the Civic Data Challenge will be presented. The challenge sought ways to turn civic health data into useful tools and data visualizations to help guide private, nonprofit and public leaders to improve their communities.

Participants in the challenge, including designers, data scientists, researchers and app developers used existing data to illustrate ways citizens are participating in their communities and how that data can help make communities better places to live, work and play.

Viewers can watch the conference, including the announcement of the winners via livestream from 1-5:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 14th. Knight’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Program, Paula Ellis, will participate in a panel exploring the link between civic engagement and employment at 1:45 p.m ET.

To join the conversation on Twitter, follow @NCoC and @CivicData and the hashtag #NCoC, or on its Facebook page. The conference will include questions from Twitter followers as part of the conference.

The Civic Data Challenge was supported in partnership with Knight Foundation and is sponsored by the Salesforce.com Foundation. It is also supported by other partners including Code for America, GOOD, the Case Foundation and Kaggle.

The challenge included a group of expert judges in the field of data and nonprofits, including Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Craigslist Connects; Vivek Kundra, executive vice president for Salesforce.com and former chief information officer of the United States; Darrell Hammond, CEO and founder of KaBOOM!, and Sonal Shah, former director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

By Elizabeth R. Miller, communications associate at Knight Foundation

Related: HuffPost Live segment "Jobless? Help a neighbor" and "Civic Data Challenge winners make data useful to field of civic health."