In Pennsylvania, Civic Engagement Is a Critical Challenge

In Pennsylvania, Civic Engagement Is a Critical Challenge
(Ash Bailot/The Morning Call via AP)

Northeastern Pennsylvania is defined by its culturally distinct communities, from dense small cities and coal-region boroughs to bucolic townships and newer suburbs. From the beginning, the area has been shaped by a deep tradition of civic engagement – an unseen force defined by volunteerism, pride, community ties, and showing up to vote.

Since the age of anthracite coal, community organizations have traditionally played an important role in building social capital and strengthening local cohesion. Immigrants and their descendants drove this civic engagement, which was evident in social clubs, beneficial societies, volunteer organizations, church festivals, and neighborhood block parties. A sense of duty to one’s community, moreover, contributed to public safety, neighborhood stability, and the region’s overall quality of life.

Today, though, there are signs of waning civic engagement in northeastern Pennsylvania, indicative of a wider trend throughout the Keystone State.

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