Methods: The United States Census Bureau’s 2013 American Housing Survey, a nationally representative sample of housing units, was utilized for this analysis. LatentGold (v5.1) was employed to identify latent classes of civic engagement based on dichotomous (yes, no) responses to eight questions asking if individuals participated in specific forms of civic engagement (e.g., membership in a civic organization, attended a neighborhood meeting). Once the latent classes were identified, Stata 14.2 was used to run a multinomial logistic regression with sociodemographic characteristics as predictors of class membership.
Results: The analytic sample includes 27,831 observations. The latent class analysis revealed four classes of civic engagement, labeled as religiously engaged (62.94% of the sample), which includes individual active in religious organizations but not in other groups; extra-neighborhood engagers (21.18%), those engaged in civic endeavors outside of the neighborhood; problem-specific neighborhood group (8.02%), who participate when a need arises in the neighborhood; and hyper-engaged (8.86%), as they tend to participate across a wide range of groups and activities both within and outside of the neighborhood. Females are more likely to be in both the extra-neighborhood (ARR = 1.16, 09% CI: 1.07, 1.26) and hyper-engaged (ARR = 1.16, 09% CI: 1.03, 1.30) groups as compared to the religiously engaged group (used as the baseline group). Members of both the extra-neighborhood group (ARR = 1.94, 09% CI: 1.75, 1.2.14) and the hyper-engaged group (ARR = 1.66, 09% CI: 1.43, 1.92) are more likely to have children in the household and to be married as compared to the religiously engaged group. The problem-specific group did not statistically significantly differ from the religiously engaged group on either of these variables. Caucasians are less likely to be in the hyper-engaged (ARR = 0.76, 09% CI: 0.65, 0.85) or problem specific neighborhood (ARR = 0.87, 09% CI: 0.77, 0.99) groups than in the religiously engaged group.
Conclusion and Implications: These findings provide additional evidence that demonstrates the idea of a singular profile of civic engagement is an inaccurate conceptualization. There are different and distinct forms of civic engagement and the differences in demographic characteristics of those who engage may suggest unique motivations for that engagement. Community development professionals should consider these unique perspectives and motivations when working to engage stakeholders in community change efforts, especially when working to identify and address issues of inequality. These factors highlight the need to engage in unique and different tactics to tap into class-specific motivations for participation.