In Brief

The Value of Volunteering

Tisch College’s CIRCLE will study the impact of AmeriCorps service on employment opportunities
October 22, 2015

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Does working for AmeriCorps—a national nonprofit volunteer organization—after college improve young people’s job prospects? That’s a question that researchers at Tisch College’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) will be studying thanks to a recent $143,296 grant from the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS).

The grant is part of a larger CNCS effort to increase understanding and knowledge about the importance of volunteering, national service and civic engagement in America.

Previous research suggested that participation in civic engagement activities, such as AmeriCorps state and national programs, can have positive labor-market outcomes for young people, and that hiring managers see volunteering as relevant when making employment decisions.

A study by CIRCLE director Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, University of Wisconsin Professor Chaeyoon Lim and Tisch College Associate Dean Peter Levine found that rates of civic engagement were strong predicators of employment growth after a recession. A CIRCLE study by Andrea Finlay and Constance Flanagan also found that service experiences were linked to academic success for young adults.

It is not known, however, if having a resume that cites AmeriCorps service in particular increases employment prospects. CIRCLE will conduct randomized experiments as part of the research. It will create fictitious resumes for applicants, varying service experiences and how they are described, to see which forms of service and which ways of presenting it are most attractive to hiring managers.

“High-quality service is beneficial for the people who serve as well as the communities they serve in,” says Kawashima-Ginsberg. “Hiring managers should treat challenging service as valuable preparation for the workforce. We will find out whether they do.”