The Stubborn Unresponsiveness of Youth Voter Turnout to Civic Education: Quasi-experimental Evidence from State-Mandated Civics Tests

Published Online in:
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
September 13, 2023

Jilli Jung, Pennsylvania State University
Maithreyi Gopalan, Pennsylvania State University

Youth voter turnout remains stubbornly low and unresponsive to civic education. Rigorous evaluations of the adoption of civic tests for high school graduation by some states on youth voter turnout remain limited. We estimate the impact of a recent, state-mandated civics test policy—the Civics Education Initiative (CEI)—on youth voter turnout by exploiting spatial and temporal variation in the adoption of CEI across states. Using nationally-representative data from the 1996-2020 Current Population Survey and a Difference-in-Differences analysis, we find that CEI does not significantly affect youth voter turnout. Our null results, largely insensitive to a variety of alternative specifications and robustness checks, provide evidence regarding the lack of efficacy of civic test policies when it comes to youth voter participation.

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Read the press release: "Study Finds That State-Mandated Civics Test Policy Does Not Improve Youth Voter Turnout"

Video: Study co-author Jilli Jung discusses major findings and implications

Study citation: Jung, J. & Gopalan, M. (2023). The stubborn unresponsiveness of youth voter turnout to civic education: Quasi-experimental evidence from state-mandated civics tests. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Prepublished September 13, 2023.