Decreased civic and political participation is a pressing problem in our country. Today, Americans are less likely to vote, work for a party or candidate, or attend a political meeting than they were 40 years ago. They belong to fewer social and community organizations and attend fewer meetings. As a result, Americans have many fewer “ties that bind;” hence, they lack crucial “social capital” that contributes to building safe and healthy communities.

This research-in-brief suggests that gender plays an important role in determining who participates in the United States. Women chose to participate, or not to, for different reasons than men. Efforts to increase civic participation by both sexes need to take these differences into account if levels of civic and political participation are to increase in America.