Where are we now? One early, powerful, and distressing set of signals came in March with a report from Over Zero and the American Immigration Council. Entitled The Belonging Barometer: The State of Belonging in America, it introduces a compelling new indicator of belonging, which it defines as follows:
“Belonging is an innate motivational drive–underpinned by our ancestral origins–to form and maintain positive emotional bonds with others. Our need for belonging is so great that it permeates our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and is integrally connected to how we perceive and pursue our life goals.”
The report goes on to convey new survey research about the extent to which Americans feel they belong in five different life settings. These include their family, friendships, workplace, local community, and the nation. Belonging, the report notes, “is not a switch but a scale,” at the opposite end of which lies exclusion, with increasingly painful levels of ambiguity in between.
The data presented in the report are sobering. A majority of Americans report experiencing non-belonging (exclusion or ambiguity) in one or more life settings. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans report non-belonging in all five life settings. As we might expect, once we get beyond our family and friends, where 60% and 57% of us experience belonging, respectfully, feelings of ambiguity or exclusion become more common. Survey respondents reported non-belonging rates of 64% in their workplace, 68% in the nation, and 74% in their local community.