Spring 2022

The Impact of National Service on Beliefs, Mindsets, and Life Pathways: Evidence from Teach For America

Thursday, Mar. 10, 2022 11:00 am12:00 pm PST

Add to Calendar

Parent Program: 

Cecilia Hyunjung Mo (UC Berkeley)


Calvin Lab Auditorium and Zoom

The health and strength of a democratic polity rests upon the public possessing a sufficient level of trust in government, political efficacy, civic engagement, and tolerance. Given that youth represent the future health of civic life, they have been the objects of many efforts to inculcate the values and practices upon which democratic citizenship depends. However, it is not clear if youth service programs like the U.S. Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are mechanisms by which engaged, efficacious, and knowledgeable citizens can be groomed. We explore this question by examining Teach For America (TFA), as TFA is a prominent national service program that integrates top college graduates into low-income communities for two years and employs a selection model that allows for causal inference. A regression discontinuity approach, utilizing an original survey of over 32,000 TFA applicants and TFA’s selection data for the 2007–2015 application cycles, reveals that participating in national service increases tolerance and shifts attitudes and beliefs in ways that reflect the worldview of disadvantaged communities. Participation also engenders greater political participation.

Cecilia Hyunjung Mo is the Judith E. Gruber Associate Professor of Political Science at University of California, Berkeley and an Associate Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.She holds a Ph.D. in Political Economics and an M.A. in Political Science from Stanford University; an MPA in International Development from Harvard University; an M.A. in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University; and a B.A. in Mathematics and Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Southern California. During the 2015-2016 academic year, she was a W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow and the Robert Eckles Swain National Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.Professor Mo specializes in behavioral political economy, comparative political behavior, the political economy of development, and social policy research. Her research interest fall in two categories: First, she is substantively interested in the economic, political, and social consequences of increased inequality. Second, she is focused on understanding democratic citizenship and the development of informed interventions aimed at promoting the values and behaviors that define effective citizenship today.