Civic engagement in young adulthood: Social capital and the mediating effects of postsecondary educational attainment


Hemer, Kevin M. (2018). Civic engagement in young adulthood: Social capital and the mediating effects of postsecondary educational attainment.


Civic Engagement has two purposes in American society. The first is to maintain democracy and democratic institutions; the second is to serve as a pathway for maturation into adulthood. Utilizing data from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), we investigate how adolescent experiences with schools and families impact young adult’s political (voting) and nonpolitical (volunteering) civic engagement and the mediating role postsecondary educational attainment may have in this process. Utilizing measures of adolescent bonding and bridging social capital, as well as human and financial capital, this investigation takes a life course perspective and relies heavily on theories of capital and emerging adulthood. Our study examines relationships between adolescence, emerging adulthood, and young adulthood with a sample of 6,872 respondents drawn from Waves I and IV of Add Health with a structural equation model and 10,000 bootstrap samples to test for mediation. We investigated these political and nonpolitical civic engagement. Our study used nationally representative, longitudinal data, to account for multiple important developmental pre-collegiate factors, assessed civic engagement in young adulthood, and included individuals who did not attend and/or complete higher education as well as those who did. In short, we found unique relationships exist for political and non-political civic engagement. Behavioral bonding and bridging social capital demonstrated direct and indirect effects to civic engagement in young adulthood. Postsecondary education was the strongest predictor civic engagement in young adulthood, suggesting greater levels of education are a powerful social structure to prepare members of society for civic participation.


Reference Type


Book Title

Human Development and Family Studies


Hemer, Kevin M.

Series Author(s)

Dorius, Cassandra J.

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Iowa State University

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