A report released by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) shows that Latino youth are at the forefront of increasing civic engagement within their communities. While overall Latino civic participation rates are lower than the rest of the population, improved educational opportunities, English language proficiency, and a higher than average rate of social media usage create increased avenues for youth engagement.

Click here to download the full 2015 Latino Civic Health Index

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The Latinos Civic Health Index Report examines trends in political participation, volunteering, and neighborhood trust across demographics including age, race, national origin, income, and immigration status.

“Latinos are the fastest growing demographic group in America, and their active civic participation is critical to the future of the Latino community and our nation,” said Ilir Zherka, NCoC Executive Director. “Latino youth are the next generation of community leaders and the prospects for their greater involvement in civic health is bright.”

Two particularly interesting findings are that young Latino Internet users use social networking sites at higher rates (80%) than non-Latino whites (70%) and African Americans (75%). Additionally, lower income Latino youth are more likely than their higher income Latino counterparts to use social media. Combined, these points offer new opportunities for civic organizations and governments to focus on social media as a way to increase engagement.

“The “Sleeping Giant” of the US Latino population has enormous civic potential,à said Peter Levine, Associate Dean, Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. ãIn particular, young Latinos, who are more educated and connected than their parents and grandparents are, can be the leaders in strengthening Latino voice and increasing Latino civic engagement. For civic and political leaders who seek to engage Latinos, this report provides essential information.”

Latino civic health is lower when compared to the rest of the population but trends among Latino youth are promising. Following are some key findings from the report:

-In the 2012 Presidential election, 48% of Latino eligible voters turned out to vote, verses 67% of African Americans and 64% of whites.

-16% of Latinos vs. 27% of non-Latinos regularly volunteer.

-35% of Latinos vs. 59% of non-Latinos trusted most or all of the people in their neighborhood.

-Education is the strongest predictor of civic participation, and educational attainment among Latino youth is improving. Since 1993, the Latino dropout rate has been cut in half (33% vs. 14%) and more Latinos are entering college.

-There are no clear trends when comparing Latino subgroups. Civic participation varies widely according to factors such as age, ethnicity, and education.

“Latino participation in elections continues to grow as does its impact on the election process,” said Brent Wilkes, LULAC National Executive Director. “Our participation will be further enhanced as the number of Latino candidates increases, and dialogue regarding issues of concern to Latinos takes center stage.”

Civic health is a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems. On a community level, strong civic health positively affects local GDP, economic resilience, upward income mobility, public health, and student achievement. On an individual level, civic health is shown to improve people’s overall health: physical, emotional, social, and mental.

“The report’s case studies demonstrate promising remedies,” said Michael Cortes, MSW, MPP, Ph.D., Scholar in Residence, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver. “If we really want to increase Latino civic engagement, we need to know even more. This reports invites researchers to dig more deeply into the U.S. Latino experience, to better understand what it would take for Latinos to become full participants in our nation’s civic life.”

The report data was obtained primarily from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey on Voting, Volunteering and Civic Engagement. The Latino Civic Health Index is latest in a series of NCoC national and state Civic Health Indexes.