The Impact of Youth Engagement on Life Satisfaction: A Quasi-Experimental Field Study of a UK National Youth Engagement Scheme

  • Laurence J
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Abstract

There is growing interest in the role of organized social participation in clubs, associations and activities in shaping subjective well-being (SWB). However, the field remains contested. This study addresses key questions regarding the participation–SWB link: concerns regarding endogeneity; debate surrounding the mechanisms at work; and the role participation can play in closing inequalities in SWB. Each question is addressed through a quasi-experimental field study into the impact of a large-scale, nationally-implemented youth engagement scheme (UK National Citizen Service) on life satisfaction. Using pre-test/post-test data on a sample of participants and (propensity score matched) controls, results suggest discrete periods of youth engagement can lead to significant improvements in life satisfaction, observable at least 4–6 months after involvement ended. Participation can also help close social inequalities in SWB via a significantly stronger impact on life satisfaction among young people from more economically disadvantaged communities. Although youth from disadvantaged communities join the scheme with lower SWB, post-participation, they have entirely closed the gap in SWB with their less-disadvantaged peers. Improvements in SWB emerge from positive impacts of participation on both social- and psychological-resource pathways. However, stronger participation-effects on psychological-resources become increasingly important for explaining the additional SWB-gains of more disadvantaged young people.

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Laurence, J. (2021). The Impact of Youth Engagement on Life Satisfaction: A Quasi-Experimental Field Study of a UK National Youth Engagement Scheme. European Sociological Review, 37(2), 305–329. https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcaa059

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