Demographic Differences in Patterns of Youth Out-of-School Time Activity Participation


  • Suzanne M. Bouffard Harvard University
  • Christopher Wimer Harvard University
  • Pia Caronongan Harvard University
  • Priscilla Little Harvard University
  • Eric Dearing University of Wyoming
  • Sandra D. Simpkins Arizona State University



summer programs, art, children's reading achievement


Participation in structured out-of-school time (OST) activities is of growing interest to families, youth practitioners, and policymakers. OST activities benefit youth socially, emotionally, and academically, especially at-risk youth. Yet, little research has explored the characteristics of youth participants. This study examines whether demographic differences exist merely in getting youth “in the door” of activities, or whether differences persist when examining the number of activities and the amount of time youth spend in activities once they are there. Results from two nationally representative datasets showed that disadvantaged youth were less likely to participate in a variety of activities than their peers, and participated in fewer numbers of activities. Among youth who did participate, Blacks and Hispanics participated less frequently in some activities, although Blacks participated more frequently in community-based youth programs. Implications for recruitment and retention are discussed, including the need for activity leaders to enhance efforts to attract and sustain disadvantaged and ethnic minority youth.






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