The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has been monitoring the long-term impact of participating in AmeriCorps (the nation’s national service program), in conjunction with Abt Associates.
Since 1999, a group of AmeriCorps participants has been compared to a group of individuals who expressed interest in AmeriCorps but didn’t wind up serving.
While some of the impacts faded over time (as one sees in most programs), eight years later, the CNCS study (Changing Lives, Changing America) found that:
- Former AmeriCorps members are more likely to be in public service careers today due to their year of service.
- Minority AmeriCorps members (State and National) who served in 1999-2000 are significantly more likely to choose a career in public service today than similar individuals in the comparison group (44% compared to 26%).
- Former AmeriCorps members from disadvantaged circumstances are more likely to be employed in a public service careers today than similar individuals in the comparison group (46% compared to 26%).
- One year of service in AmeriCorps creates long-term positive impacts on the civic outcomes of AmeriCorps alums eight years later. For instance, AmeriCorps members are more likely than the comparison group to attend public and community meetings today due to their year of service. AmeriCorps alumni are more confident that they could get a pothole fixed and more confident in their ability to launch projects like after-school youth programs.
- They are more slightly more likely to have volunteered in past 12 months
- AmeriCorps alumni show greater social trust: 85% of alumni believe that others can be trusted vs. only 71% of comparable respondents who didn’t participate in AmeriCorps.
- Members who served in AmeriCorps are more satisfied with their lives eight years later than individuals who did not end up serving in AmeriCorps.
- And satisfaction rates are extraordinarily high: 91% of AmeriCorps participants said their experience was excellence or good; 95% would re-enroll if given the opportunity and 95% would recommend AmeriCorps to a friend or family member.
[Full report “Still Serving: Measuring the Eight Year Impact of Americorps on Alumni” available here.]
National Service has always focused on dual strategies of getting useful work done and transforming the participants and this research speaks powerfully to that second point.
We also think that the timing is propitious. Many young Americans are increasingly interested in volunteering (since the mid-90s) and are now getting increasingly interested in politics and public service. [Bob Putnam and I have written about this ‘9-11 Generation.’] Moreover, there is a movement afoot to increase the scope of national service, ranging from Barack Obama’s national service platform to Alan Khazei’s forthcoming book *Be The Change*, to Richard Stengel’s TIME cover on national service to a planned summit in September convening by TIME and the National Conference on Citizenship that brings together John McCain and the democratic presidential nominee (which at this point is looking heavily like Barack Obama).
Moreover, we think that broadscale national service may be one of the most effective ways in helping us to gain traction on the short- to medium-term challenges of building a stronger social fabric in the face of more diverse communities.