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Teaching Citizenship: Race and the Behavioral Effects of American Civic Education

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 November 2019

Matthew D. Nelsen*
Affiliation:
Northwestern University
*
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Matthew D. Nelsen, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Scott Hall, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL60208. E-mail: MatthewNelsen2021@u.northwestern.edu
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Abstract

Political scientists have identified how resources, attitudes, and mobilization impact political participation across racial groups. However, the role of civic education has largely been overlooked in shaping these trends. I develop a theory that suggests exposure to civics curricula yields heterogeneous effects on the political participation of youth across racial groups. I test my hypotheses with data from the Black Youth Project's 2005 Youth Culture Survey, supplemented by two original data collections from 2017–2018. I find that civic education courses are associated with higher rates of external efficacy among white youth, but not for black and Latinx youth. Contrastingly, civic education courses appear to increase acts of public voice among black and Latinx respondents, but not for their white peers. Rather than viewing civic education courses as a panacea for low rates of youth political participation, scholars and policymakers should pay closer attention to the ways in which the content of civic education courses contributes to heterogeneous effects across racial and ethnic groups.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2019

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