Civic engagement is vital for liberal democracy, the proper functioning of social, civic, and governmental institutions, and economic growth. This report examines citizen participation in political and social civic life in California. We begin by comparing the state to the nation at large, and find that California lags the nation in most forms of civic engagement. The data show that, on average, Whites were more engaged than Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, and native citizens born in the US are more engaged than citizens born elsewhere and non-citizens. To analyze whether these factors determine why civic engagement differs in California, we next employ a regression analysis. The participation gaps between California and the rest of the nation (excluding New York and Texas) can be entirely explained by differences in demographics for four of the six measures of civic engagement. For the other two, the differing demographic profile of California explains about a third to a half of the gaps. We also find that ethnicity, race, and citizenship are generally the most important determinants and explain much of the California engagement gaps. The fact that California has more Hispanics, Asians, naturalized citizens, and noncitizens than the rest of the US thus appears to go a long way toward explaining the lower civic engagement we observe in the state. We conclude by comparing California to New York and Texas to ascertain if those states lag the rest of the nation for the same reasons as California. Unsurprisingly, race, ethnicity, and citizenship also play large roles in explaining the participation gaps in New York and Texas. However, some other factors have more impact in these other two states than in California (income and the low marital rate in New York, and education in Texas).
Prieger, James and Faltis, Kelly, "Civic Engagement in California: Why Do We Lag?" (2012). Pepperdine University, School of Public Policy Working Papers. Paper 37.