Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Institute on Family and Community Life

Committee Member

Dr. Susan P. Limber, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Martha Thompson

Committee Member

Dr. Arelis Moore de Peralta

Committee Member

Dr. Kevin D. Ward

Abstract

Each year, more than 75,000 Americans participate in a year of service with AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps members meet a variety of pressing needs in diverse communities throughout the United States in the short term, and in the long-term AmeriCorps programs seek to foster skilled, educated leaders who will remain civically engaged in their communities long after their year of service has ended. The 1999-2007 AmeriCorps Longitudinal Study tracked approximately 2,000 AmeriCorps members, as well as a comparison group of approximately 2,000 individuals who expressed an interest in AmeriCorps but ultimately did not serve, in order to understand the long-term impact of service on volunteer members in the areas of civic engagement, employment, life skills, and education. Analyses of this study have demonstrated lasting, positive outcomes for AmeriCorps members relative to comparison group members. However, previous analyses have largely examined outcomes for AmeriCorps members as a whole, leaving important unanswered questions about how AmeriCorps service impacts diverse groups of members. Using the Cross-Cultural Year of Service Theoretical Model as a framework, this dissertation identified distinct member profiles within a sample of 1,424 AmeriCorps members and 1,216 comparison group members from the AmeriCorps Longitudinal Study, and examined how outcome trajectories differed among these groups over time. Four distinct participant profiles were identified: Young Idealists (recent high school graduates with high public service motivation); Wanderers (19-20 year-olds with a high school diploma and possibly some college who had a low public service motivation); Gappers (recent college graduates with low public service motivation); and Public Servants (recent college graduates with high public service motivation). Repeated measures analyses of variance revealed significant differences in outcome trajectories between these four profiles within the sample of AmeriCorps members, as well as between AmeriCorps and comparison group members within each profile. AmeriCorps members within each profile demonstrated positive growth in civic engagement relative to comparison group members over the eight-year period, supporting the contention that AmeriCorps programs help to foster civic-minded leaders. Findings in the areas of employment, life skills, and education, however, were mixed among the profiles. AmeriCorps program leaders may therefore wish to adopt a more nuanced approach to member recruitment, retention, and support that can better account for the diversity of AmeriCorps members and ensure that more diverse members will have a positive experience and “get things done” for life. More current and comprehensive research is needed to better understand the background and motivation of AmeriCorps members and other year of service volunteers today, and to better understand the long-term outcomes of AmeriCorps and other year of service programs on individual volunteers and the communities in which they serve.

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