This pilot project, funded by the Spencer Foundation, researched the interconnections between civic identity and civic participation among American youth today. Of particular interest to the study were marginalized populations of young people who feel that they may not have realistic prospects for full American citizenship.
The study examined a number of research questions that derived from its specific focus on civic identity and purpose, and that have rarely been examined in previous research on youth development. Among these questions were: 1) Do young people who are politically engaged differ from those who are engaged in other community activities, and from those who are wholly unengaged, in the nature of their civic identities and purposes? 2) How are such differences reflected within and across diverse populations of youth, especially with regard to disadvantaged youth and recent immigrants? 3) What role does knowledge of the American democratic tradition play in shaping civic identity and purpose among young people in this country? 4) How do attitudes regarding American citizenship differ among populations of young people who may consider themselves marginalized – and, related to this question, what is the relation between identity as a prospective American citizen and aspects of identity that derive from ethnicity, place of birth (especially for immigrant youth), religious affiliation, and socio-economic background?