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  • The Chicago Community Adult Health study was supported by funds from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P50HD38986 and R01HD050467). The author was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (T32HD049302). The author would also like to thank Mike Spencer, Jeff Morenoff, Liz Gershoff, Dave Harding, Zakiya Luna, and Valenta Kabo as well as members of the Chicago Community Adult Health research group for feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. The contents of this paper are solely the responsibility of the author.

Please address correspondence to: Megan Gilster, 310 N. Midvale Blvd., Suite 201, Madison, Wisconsin 53705. E-mail:


Does participating in neighborhood-focused activism confer different benefits than volunteering? The engagement of community members in neighborhood civic life has been identified as an important component of safe and healthy communities. Research on community engagement has encompassed voluntary associations, volunteering, as well as participation in neighborhood activism. A diverse set of research suggests that there are psychological and social benefits to community engagement, but also suggests that there are differences between forms of participation. To understand these differences, I examine the relationship of both volunteerism and neighborhood activism to psychosocial outcomes using survey data from a neighborhood-based sample of Chicago residents (n = 3105). Findings suggest that activism is different—activists have higher neighborhood and personal mastery than those who only volunteer. Participation in neighborhood activism is also associated with an increased likelihood of contact with local officials and social ties in the neighborhood. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.