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Finding the young invisibles

Posted by Jesse Singal  October 28, 2010 12:35 PM

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WASHINGTON - Yesterday I met with Abby Kiesa and Peter Levine, both of CIRCLE, an organization that studies and seeks to bolster youth civic engagement.

In talking about the youth vote, it's easy to forget the fact that the majority of young people don't or didn't go to college. This group, much too large to be ignored in the long run, poses particular challenges for those hoping to engage with and politically activate them, because it's not always easy to find them (college students are on college campuses — there's no one place you can go to find large numbers of non-college youth). This is a bigger problem than it used to be, Levine told me, because of the ways the country has changed in recent decades.

"Working-class youths used to be in places where you could reach them, too," he said. "They were in union halls, they were in churches which used to have much bigger membership of young people. They were in fraternal organizations, and that was diverse because that meant the Elks and the Lions and the Knights of Columbus, but it also meant the NAACP and the Urban League."

Little of this infrastructure remains, though.

"Lots of supportive aspects in their life have really been shattered by big forces and left them dispersed," Levine said. "So if they're all working in different Dunkin' Donuts across the Boston metro area, it is harder to reach [them]."

Levine did say, however, that he thought working-class youth could be engaged with just like any other constituency. At the moment, though, politicians apparently don't think it's worth it.

"They're invisible because they're not very powerful," he said.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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