According to a study by New York University, inequality is linked with greater civic engagement among youth, particularly among youth of color and those of lower socioeconomic status.
These findings seem to contradict what research has shown among adults, which is that higher inequality results in lower civic engagement. But these findings don’t come as such a big surprise to those who work with youth and know how resilient and optimistic they can be.
In prior research projects, it was shown that income inequality and disparity reduced civic participation among adults, particularly among those of color and of lower socioeconomic status. Greater income inequality and disparity is associated with lower rates of voting, participation in social groups, and volunteering among adults; it is also associated with decreases in social trust. Among adults of color this also leads to increasing incidents of depression and other mental issues.
Until now, there had been no studies done to explored income inequality and civic engagement among youth of color. In this study, researchers also found that race and ethnicity may influence civic engagement in areas of greater income inequality. While all youth who were part of the study reported volunteering more often in unequal counties, this increase was slightly higher for Asian American and black youth (compared to white youth).
This study, and others like it only go to show that youth of color are generally more idealistic than adults of color who see the inequalities and disparities they face as insurmountable. Youth of color see these same issues from a different perspective, instead of feeling down and beaten, youth of color see these issues as something to work harder to change.
This realization only emphasizes the need to further civically engage youth of color by providing them with opportunities to discuss and debate the inequalities and disparities they experience in their daily lives. This will lead to greater change and better solutions to deal with the inequalities presently faced by minorities.