2022 Chicago CHI: Changing the Frame – Civic Engagement Through a Racial Lens

Since Robert Putnam’s 1995 article “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital” and his 2000 book of a similar title, policymakers and nonprofit funders have sent out warning signals about the state of civic engagement. Traditional measures of civic life and volunteering show declining rates of civic engagement since the 1960s. For example, these measures consistently show low rates of voting and volunteering among Black and Latinx, young, and working-class people. The interpretation of these measures often leads to bleak declarations about the state of civic life: “Leading thinkers have issued warnings that we are increasingly ‘bowling alone’, ‘coming apart’, and inhabiting a ‘fractured republic.’” According to the U.S. Joint Economic Committee’s 2017 report on social capital, “Our social fabric has seen better days.” Likewise, the 2010 Chicago Civic Health Index report began with the startling assessment that “Chicagoland’s civic health is on life support.”

Download the full 2022 Chicago Civic Health Index

Changing the Frame: Civic Engagement Through a Racial Equity Lens is dedicated to all the organizers and Community-Based Organizations working day-in and day-out to make racial equity and social justice a reality for all Chicagoans.

Authored by Chris Poulos, Iván Arenas, and Amanda E. Lewis

A collaboration with the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) & University of Illinois at Chicago

Published July 2022