Assessing the Effects of Voluntary Youth Service: The Case of Teach for America

Paperback
This book uses survey data from all accepted applicants to Teach for America 1993-98 to assess the longer-term effect of youth service on participants' current civic attitudes and behaviors. While TFA graduates score higher than the two comparison groups - dropouts and non-matriculants - on a broad range of attitudinal items measuring civic commitment, these differences appear to be less a byproduct of the TFA experience than a reflection of current involvement with the TFA organization. Moreover, the attitudinal differences are not reflected in actual civic behavior. Specifically, graduates lag behind non-matriculants in current service activity and generally trail both non-matriculants and drop-outs in self-reported participation in five other forms of civic/political activity measured in the study. Graduates also vote at lower rates than the other two groups. Finally, fewer graduates report employment in pro-social jobs than either non-matriculants or drop-outs. The authors close by speculating on what mechanisms may help explain variation in the long-term effects of youth service or activist experiences.