Professor Spotlight: John B. Holbein


Congratulations to Assistant Professor John B. Holbein for his mention in New York Magazine on August 11, 2017, regarding his study entitled “Childhood Skill Development and Adult Political Participation,” published in the American Political Science Review (Volume 111, Issue 3, August 2017, pp. 572-583).

The study found that kids who received help with their social skills, including voting and political participation, were better off than those who hadn’t. The psychosocial or noncognitive skills that children develop in early education—including the ability to self-regulate and integrate in social settings—are important for success in school and beyond.

The study focused on a program called Fast Track, which was designed to improve the future general well-being of children by developing their social skills including voting. The study found that by the time the children reached adulthood, after participating in Fast Track in early education, they were less likely to commit crimes or to be involved with risky sexual behavior. Additionally, the participants in the program were more likely to be better educated, to have better employment prospects, and to have healthier relationships with their spouses and children.

The study included 891 kids— 445 in the control group, 446 to receive special education on their social skills — who were at risk of growing up to drop out of school, engage in criminal behavior, or were more likely to end up in prison. The program was incorporated in schools across four states: North Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Washington and lasted from the first to tenth grade.

Holbein’s article was also mentioned in a Washington Post article entitled “A political scientist has discovered a surprising way to increase voter turnout. It starts in childhood,” on August 17, 2017.

In addition to his work published in the  American Political Science Review Holbein also recently published an article entitled “Making Young Voters: The Impact of Preregistration on Youth Turnout,” co-authored with D. Sunshine Hillygus, both from Duke University, in the American Journal of Political Science.

The article examines the effectiveness of preregistration laws, which allow young citizens to register before being eligible to vote. Holbein and Hillygus found that preregistration increases voter turnout, with equal effectiveness for various subgroups in the electorate.

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