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The Development of Students’ Engagement in School, Community and Democracy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 October 2018

John B. Holbein*
Department of Political Science, Brigham Young University
D. Sunshine Hillygus
Department of Political Science, Duke University
Matthew A. Lenard
Department of Data Strategy & Analytics, Wake County Public Schools System
Christina Gibson-Davis
Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
Darryl V. Hill
Fulton County Public Schools System
*Corresponding author. Email:


This article explores the origins of youth engagement in school, community and democracy. Specifically, it considers the role of psychosocial or non-cognitive abilities, like grit or perseverance. Using a novel original large-scale longitudinal survey of students linked to school administrative records and a variety of modeling techniques – including sibling, twin and individual fixed effects – the study finds that psychosocial abilities are a strong predictor of youth civic engagement. Gritty students miss less class time and are more engaged in their schools, are more politically efficacious, are more likely to intend to vote when they become eligible, and volunteer more. Our work highlights the value of psychosocial attributes in the political socialization of young people.

© Cambridge University Press 2018

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