Studies indicate that participation in voluntary structured activities during nonschool time is associated with development of positive identity, increased initiative, and positive relationships with diverse peers and adults, better school achievement, reduced rates of dropping out of school, reduced delinquency, and more positive outcomes in adulthood (Barber et al., in press; Clark, 1988; Eccles and Barber, 1999; Larson, 2000; Vandell and Posner, 1999). For example, in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, students who reported spending no time in some kind of school-sponsored activity (versus those spending 1 to 4 hours per week in such activities) were 57 percent more likely to have dropped out before they reached the 12th grade. Also, students with high levels of participation in school activities were less likely than non-participants to engage in problem behavior, such as being arrested, taking drugs, engaging in teen sex, smoking, and drinking (Zill et al., 1995).
In recent community-based surveys conducted by the Search Institute (Benson, 1997; Scales and Leffert, 1999) and by Sipe and colleagues for Public/Private Ventures (Sipe et al., 1998), a substantial number of young people were not involved in programs during their out-of-school time. For example, less than 25 percent of youth in low-income communities in Austin, Texas, St. Petersburg, Florida, and Savannah, Georgia, reported having been involved in any formal leadership activities in the previous year (Sipe et al., 1998; Scales and Leffert, 1999). The communities included in this survey were chosen to represent communities with high crime rates, low rates of school performance, and high unemployment. In another survey, with a more representative sample from across the United States, similar results were found; only 50 percent of the youth in public and alternative schools, surveyed from over 213 different towns and cities across the United States by the Search Institute, spent even 3 hours per week in constructive out-of-school activities (Scales and Leffert, 1999). Finally, according to an analysis of national survey data collected for the committee by the Urban Institute and Child Trends, 60 percent of youth did not participate in any kind of community-based youth activity. Of the few that were involved, about 20 percent participated less than an hour a day, leaving about half of the youth between 12 and 14 years of age not taking part in any kind of extra-curricular class or lesson. Research from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (U.S. Department of Labor, 1997) echoes these findings, with only about a fifth of teenagers in the United States in the late 1980s and 1990s having participated in some kind of structured out-of-school activity.
The prevailing problem regarding participation in after-school com-