The Democracy and Voting Working Group aims to develop and put into use the concept of “civic wealth,” measurable at both the individual and the group level. To do so, the group charts both sides of the wealth ledger: civic assets and civic liabilities. On the one hand, they consider assets such as political knowledge, political efficacy, and social networks. Conversely, they gauge liabilities such as racial segregation, “bad neighborhoods,” economic inequality, and voter suppression. Civic wealth, then, is a composite measure that incorporates both assets and liabilities into a single statistic.
Much of the initial work involves delineating the conceptual boundaries of civic wealth, making decisions about how to measure each of its components at the individual and community level, determining the appropriate weights for each component, and identifying appropriate data sources that we can use for creating the measure. Civic wealth is more than a measure of voting, political participation, or civic engagement. Civic wealth is a larger set of resources that the working group hypothesizes will translate into political power and lead to crucial public policy outcomes.
The objective of the Democracy and Voting Working Group is to equip scholars and practitioners with knowledge they can use to improve U.S. democratic practices. Once the group has developed the concept of civic wealth, its members will leverage it to shed light on a number of crucial outcomes and processes. The initial questions pursued by the group are descriptive, exploring and defining the fundamental gender, race, and class inequalities (in the distribution of civic wealth) that shape the lives of children and family in powerful and often negative ways.
- What is the relationship between civic wealth and economic wealth?
- How do civic wealth gaps vary across (geographic) communities?
- How do civic wealth gaps vary across demographic groups (considering either race or gender) and at their intersections (considering both race and gender)?
- What material outcomes correlate with civic wealth gaps: All things being equal, do communities fare better when they are equipped with more civic wealth?
- What political outcomes correlate with wealth gaps: Are communities and their policy interests better represented when they have more civic wealth?