On December 8th, 2017, The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity released a new research brief on the concept of civic wealth, written in collaboration with the Scholars Strategy Network and Insight Center for Community Economic Development. All three organizations work to translate research into policy, and their latest research is doing just that.

The Research Brief introduces a new concept through which to understand the current and historical political landscape in the United States: civic wealth. Using economic wealth as a parallel notion, the authors posit that civic wealth is a combination of a person or community’s civic assets minus their civic liabilities. Civic assets may include qualities such as a higher sense of efficacy, high political knowledge or social connectedness. Civic liabilities take away the ability to fully participate in politics, including such things as mass incarceration, stigmatization, voter suppression or caregiver responsibilities.

Using civic wealth as a framework for understanding civic participation can inform efforts to engage marginalized communities in the political process. The authors argue that “failure of scholars and practitioners to correctly diagnose the cause of low levels of civic participation lead to ineffectual prescriptions” and that “the concept of “civic wealth” is a productive corrective.” While the concept is still being “operationalized” it has the potential to provide policymakers with a better understanding of the forces driving (and discouraging) political participation, leading to more effective solutions for mobilizing marginalized communities.

To learn more about the research, check out the authors behind the brief:

  • Avi Green, Executive Director of the Scholars Strategy Network
  • Jamila Michener, Professor of Government at Cornell University
  • Shauna Shames, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University
  • Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Director of Racial Equity and Strategy at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development