News Release
University Affairs Office
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    February 18, 2004
    Contact: Jean Wasp, Media Relations, (707) 664-2057 ,


"What Gets Latino Youth Involved?" Conference Will Explain Paths to Civic Engagement

Results of a research study last spring about the patterns of civic engagement among Latino youth will be explored at a conference at the Sonoma State University Commons on Saturday, Feb. 28.

Latinos in the U.S. do not participate in civic and community activities on equal levels to their non-Latino counterparts, particularly compared with non-Hispanic whites, say SSU professors Carlos Benito and Francisco Vazquez, in a summary just released.

Yet Latino students are more involved with spiritual exploration and reflection of the self than non-Latinos, they say, which can lead to participation in civic activities if strengthened by academics.

Their research used primary information gathered from students, at the junior and senior levels, within public high schools of Sonoma County. The study was funded by a $100,000 grant from the The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at the University of Maryland.

The project involved surveys that consider civic knowledge, human values, family background, socioeconomic status, culture of origin, and demographic characteristics among other factors. Benito and Vazquez's findings show that students whose families belong to low socioeconomic classes are likely to engage less than those in a higher socioeconomic position.

They also found that students with more altruistic motivations are likely to engage more in community activities than students who are more self-centered in their motivations or who are indifferent about civic engagement. Students with poor knowledge of U.S. civics, or students with low scholastic achievements, are likely to engage less than those who are better educated, Benito says.

Benito and Vazquez will present their findings beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The remainder of the day involves discussion about how to apply the research to community needs and public policies.

An executive summary of the whole report, a position paper for the conference, and the data from the statistical survey can be found on the Web at

"Over a third of Latinos nationally are younger than 18 years of age, and within the next 10 years, their voting power and civic participation could be formidable," says Vazquez.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States, making up 12% of the total U.S. population. In Sonoma County, Latinos comprise 17.3% of the population, Vasquez reports.

Benito, an economics professor, has worked internationally on Education and Social Projects. He has worked for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, among others. As a teacher, he commonly has his students do applied research in economics to help them learn while serving community needs.

Vazquez, director of the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies, was recently honored as a recipient of one of four Honorable Mentions for the nationally recognized Ernest A. Lynton Award for Faculty Professional Service and Academic Outreach. The award recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her expertise and scholarship to community outreach.

To reach either Carlos Benito or Francisco Vazquez, contact Jean Wasp, Media Relations, (707) 664-2057.

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Last Modified: 02/18/2004