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Motivations for civic participation among diverse youth: More similarities than differences

Publication Authors: 
Parissa J. Ballard, Heather Malin, Tenelle Porter, Anne Colby, & William Damon
Publication Year: 
2015, Published online 02 Apr
Publication Journal: 
Research in Human Development, 12(1-2), 63-83. DOI: 10.1080/15427609.2015.1010348

Participating in civic life is an important developmental task of adolescence and a central tenet of democracy. What motivates diverse youth in the US to become involved in civic life? Using a mixed-method and person-centered approach, we (1) identified subgroups of participants based on their motivations for political and non-political volunteering and (2) explored differences in civic motivations by ethnic and immigration backgrounds among Asian and Latino adolescents. Using latent class analysis, we identified four classes of motivation for political (N = 414) and non-political volunteer (N = 1,066) activities: helping identity, instrumental, personal issue, and weak motivation. Overall, first and second-generation Latino and Asian youth and non-immigrants showed more similarities than differences in civic motivations. Survey and interview data revealed that youth from immigrant backgrounds were more motivated to volunteer by instrumental reasons compared to non-immigrants. Qualitative analyses also revealed that immigrant youth from Mexican backgrounds were mobilized around issues of immigration reform while youth from Asian backgrounds were concerned with issues in their local communities.