Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 111–125 | Cite as

Latino Adolescents’ Civic Development in the United States: Research Results from the IEA Civic Education Study

  • Judith Torney-PurtaEmail author
  • Carolyn H. Barber
  • Britt Wilkenfeld
Original Paper


Many studies have reported gaps between Latino and non-Latino adolescents in academic and political outcomes. The current study presents possible explanations for such gaps, both at the individual and school level. Hierarchical linear modeling is employed to examine data from 2,811 American ninth graders (approximately 14 years of age) who had participated in the IEA Civic Education study. Analyses of large data bases enable the consideration of individual characteristics and experiences, as well as the context of classrooms and schools. In comparison with non-Latino students, Latino adolescents report more positive attitudes toward immigrants’ rights but have lower civic knowledge and expected civic participation. These differences were apparent even when controlling for language, country of birth, and political discussions with parents. School characteristics that explain a portion of this gap include open classroom climate and time devoted to study of political topics and democratic ideals. Results are discussed within the framework of developmental assets and political socialization. Implications for educational policy and ways to use large data sets are also discussed.


Hispanic Latino Citizenship Political socialization Ethnic identity Positive youth development 



The collection of data for the IEA Civic Education Study in the United States was supported by the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. Some of the analysis reported here was supported by the William T. Grant Foundation and by the Carnegie Corporation of New York through CIRCLE (the Center for Research on Civic Learning and Engagement). The authors are grateful for comments on early versions to Fernando Reimers and to participants in the Workshop on Multilevel Models of Civic Engagement (held in May 2006 at the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Political Psychology). The full international data set (including scales and documentation) is available on a CD-Rom (see information about ordering a free copy on∼iea). Information about obtaining the U.S. data set can be obtained from


  1. Amadeo J, Torney-Purta J, Lehmann R, Husfeldt V, Nikolova R (2002) Civic knowledge and engagement: An IEA study of upper secondary students in sixteen countries. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. [Available:∼iea]Google Scholar
  2. Baldi S, Perie M, Skidmore D, Greenberg E, Hahn C (ed) (2001) What democracy means to ninth graders: U.S. results from the IEA Civic Education Study. National Center for Educational Statistics, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  3. Balsano AB (2005) Youth civic engagement in the United States: Understanding and addressing the impact of social impediments on positive youth and community development. Appl Dev Sci 9:188–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barreto MA, Muñoz JA (2003) Reexamining the “Politics of in-between”: Political participation among Mexican immigrants in the United States. Hispanic J Behav Sci 25:427–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benson P, Pittmann K (2001) Trends in youth development: Visions realities, and challenges. Kluwer Academic Publishers, BostonGoogle Scholar
  6. Berry J, Phinney J, Sam D, Vedder P (eds) (2006) Immigrant youth in cultural transition: Acculturation, identity, and adaptation across national contexts. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJGoogle Scholar
  7. Bloomberg L, Ganey A, Alba V, Quintero G, Alcantra LA (2003) Chicano-Latino Youth Leadership Institute: An asset-based program for youth. Am J Health Behav 27:S45–S54PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Calderón M (1998) Adolescent sons and daughters of immigrants: How schools can respond. In: Borman K, Schneider B (eds) The adolescent years: Social influences and educational challenges: Ninety-seventh Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part I. The National Society for the Study of Education, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  9. Call KT, Mortimer JT (2002) Arenas of comfort in adolescence: A study of adjustment in context. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJGoogle Scholar
  10. Diaz J (2005) School attachment among Latino youth in rural Minnesota. Hispanic J Behav Sci 27:300–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Driever SL (2004) Latinos in polynucleated Kansas City. In: Arreola DD (ed) Hispanic spaces, Hispanic places. University of Texas Press, Austin, TXGoogle Scholar
  12. French SE, Seidman E, Allen L, Aber JL (2006) The development of ethnic identity during adolescence. Dev Psychol 42:1–10PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fuligni AJ, Hardway C (2004) Preparing diverse adolescents for the transition to adulthood. The Future of Children: Children of Immigrant Families (vol. 14). Retrieved May 17, 2006 from www.futureofchildren.orgGoogle Scholar
  14. Gandara P (2005) Fragile futures: Risk and vulnerability among Latino high achievers. Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  15. Garcia JA (1997) Political participation: Resources and involvement among Latinos in the American political system. In: Garcia FC (ed) Pursuing power: Latinos and the political system. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, INGoogle Scholar
  16. Gonzales MH, Riedel E, Avery PG, Sullivan JL (2001) Rights and obligations in civic education: a content analysis of the National Standards for Civics and Government. Theory Res Soc Educ 29(1):109–128Google Scholar
  17. Hahn C, Torney-Purta J (1999) The IEA Civic Education Project: National and international perspectives. Soc Educ 65(7):425–431Google Scholar
  18. Hahn C (2001) Student views of democracy: The good and bad news. Soc Educ 65:456–460Google Scholar
  19. Hart D, Atkins R (2002) Civic competence in urban youth. Appl Dev Sci 6:227–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hovey JD (2000) Psychosocial predictors of acculturative stress in Mexican immigrants. J Psychol 134:490–502PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Husfeldt V, Barber C, Torney-Purta J (2005) Students’ social attitudes and expected political participation: New scales in the enhanced database of the IEA Civic Education Study. College Park, MD: Civic Education Data and Researcher Services, Department of Human Development, University of Maryland College Park. Retrieved July 20, 2006 from∼ieaGoogle Scholar
  22. Jessor R, Turbin MS, Costa FM (1998) Risk and protection in successful outcomes among disadvantaged adolescents. Appl Dev Sci 2:194–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jones CJ, Trickett EJ (2005) Immigrant adolescents behaving as culture brokers: A study of families from the former Soviet Union. J Soc Psychol 145:405–427PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Laosa L (1989) Psychological stress, coping, and the development of the Hispanic immigrant child. Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  25. Larson R, Hansen D (2005) The development of strategic thinking: Learning to impact human systems in a youth activism program. Hum Dev 48:327–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lee J (2002) Racial and ethnic achievement gap trends: Reversing the progress toward equity. Educ Res 31(1):3–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lerner RM, Fischer CB, Weinberg RA (2000) Toward a science for and of the people: Promoting civil society through the application of developmental science. Child Dev 71:11–20PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lopez MH (2003, March). Electoral engagement among Latino youth. College Park, MD: The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement. Retrieved January 18, 2006 from http://www.civicyouth.orgGoogle Scholar
  29. McDevitt M (2006) The partisan child: Developmental provocation as a model of political socialization. Int J Public Opin Res 18:67–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pedersen S, Seidman E, Yoshikawa H, Rivera AC, Allen L, Aber JL (2005) Contextual competence: Multiple manifestations among urban adolescents. Am J Community Psychol 35:65–82PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pittman KJ, Irby M, Tolman J, Yohalem N, Ferber T (2001) Preventing problems, promoting development, encouraging encouragement: Competing priorities or inseparable goals? Forum for Youth Investment, Takoma Park, MDGoogle Scholar
  32. Porter N (2006) Report of the APA expert summit on immigration: Immigration policy is child policy. The Advocate 29(1):7–8Google Scholar
  33. Ramos-Zayas A (2003) National performances: The politics of class, race and space in Puerto-Rican Chicago. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  34. Raudenbush SW, Bryk AS, Cheong YF, Congdon R (2004) HLM 6: Hierarchical Linear and Nonlinear Modeling. Scientific Software International, Lincolnwood, ILGoogle Scholar
  35. Reimers F (2005, August). An incomplete education. Civic education of immigrant students in the United States. Paper presented at the conference on Education and Democracy in the Americas, San Jose, Costa RicaGoogle Scholar
  36. Rodriguez M, Morrobel D (2004) A review of Latino youth development research and a call for an asset orientation. Hispanic J Behav Sci 26(2):107–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Roscigno VJ (2000) Family-school inequality and African American/Hispanic achievement. Soc Probl 47:266–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Roth J, Borbely CJ, Brooks-Gunn J (2003, October). Service-learning and positive youth development: How service-learning programs relate to the goals and processes of positive youth development. Paper presented at the Service-Learning and Developmental Science Conference, Colorado Springs, COGoogle Scholar
  39. Sanchez Jankowski M (1992). Ethnic identity and political consciousness in different social orders. In: Haste H, Torney-Purta J (eds) The development of political understanding: a new perspective. Jossey-Bass, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  40. Scales PC, Benson PL, Leffert N, Blyth DA (2000) Contribution of developmental assets to the prediction of thriving among adolescents. Appl Dev Sci 4:27–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schildkraut D (2005) The rise and fall of political engagement among Latinos: The role of identity and perceptions of discrimination. Pol Behav 27(3):285–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schmid CL (2001) Educational achievement, language-minority students, and the new second generation. Sociol Educ 74: 71–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schulz W, Sibberns H (2004) Technical report for the IEA Civic Education Study. IEA, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  44. Search Institute (n.d.). Asset Categories. Retrieved May 19, 2006 from Scholar
  45. Steiner-Khamsi G, Torney-Purta J, Schwille J (ed) (2002) New paradigms and recurring paradoxes in education for citizenship, vol. 5. Elsevier Science, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  46. Stepick A, Stepick CD (2002) Becoming American, constructing ethnicity: Immigrant youth and civic engagement. Appl Dev Sci 6:246–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tienda M, Mitchell F (eds) (2006) Hispanics and the future of America. National Academy of Sciences Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  48. Torney-Purta J (2002) The school’s role in developing civic engagement: A study of adolescents in twenty-eight countries. Appl Dev Sci 6:203–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Torney-Purta J, Barber C, Wilkenfeld B (in press) Differences in the civic knowledge and attitudes of U.S. adolescents by immigrant status and Hispanic background. ProspectsGoogle Scholar
  50. Torney-Purta J, Homana G, Barber C (2006, April). Young people’s social and political attitudes and communities of practice in four countries. In: Veugelers W (Chair) Human development and citizenship. Paper symposium at the American Education Research Association annual conference, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
  51. Torney-Purta J, Lehmann R, Oswald H, Schulz W (2001) Citizenship and education in twenty-eight countries. Amsterdam: International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement. [Available:∼iea]Google Scholar
  52. Torney-Purta J, Schwille J, Amadeo J (1999) Civic education across countries: Twenty-four national case studies from the IEA civic education project. International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  53. Torney-Purta J, Vermeer Lopez S (2006) Developing citizenship competencies from kindergarten through grade 12: A background paper for policymakers and educators. Education Commission of the States, Denver, COGoogle Scholar
  54. U.S. Bureau of the Census (2002). Voting and registration in the election of November 2000. Washington, DC. Retrieved January 9, 2006 from Scholar
  55. U.S. Bureau of the Census (2003). Young, diverse, urban. Washington, DC. Retrieved January 9, 2006 from Scholar
  56. Walsh CE (1987) Schooling and the civic exclusion of Latinos: Toward a discourse of dissonance. J Educ 169:115–131Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith Torney-Purta
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carolyn H. Barber
    • 1
  • Britt Wilkenfeld
    • 1
  1. 1.Human DevelopmentUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations