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Multi-Year Evaluation of the Boston Youth Summer Employment Program

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Client: City of Boston, Office of Workforce Development

Funder: William T. Grant Foundation

Principal Investigator: Alicia Sasser Modestino

Co-Principal Investigator: Trinh Nguyen (City of Boston, Office of Workforce Development)

Award: $280,714

Description: Since its inception in 1990, the Boston Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) has become a national model bringing together city, state, and private funding of nearly $10 million per year to employ about 10,000 youth aged 14 to 24 with roughly 900 local employers. Early work experience—such as that provided by summer jobs—is widely believed to be an important tool for enhancing the future employment prospects and earnings potential of low-income youth. This project seeks to understand not only whether SYEP improve outcomes among youth, but also how these impacts are achieved and for whom these impacts are the greatest. The evaluation will be conducted over the course of three years and seeks to measure (1) the baseline impact of the program on both short- and longer-term outcomes, (2) whether the effects endure beyond the first year and the effect of multiple years of participation, (3) the effectiveness of specific features of the program including the career readiness curriculum and private sector job placement.

Using an embedded randomized control trial, we will explore how the program affects youth behavior during the summer and how these short-term program impacts relate to improvements in outcomes during the subsequent one to three years after participation. Using a pre/post survey, we will measure short-term program effects on financial literacy, job readiness skills, post-secondary aspirations, and community engagement that occur during the summer. We will then match this information to individual administrative records on employment, school, and criminal activity. By linking the survey responses to the administrative data, we will determine which of the self-reported program impacts lead to greater improvements in longer-term outcomes to better understand how the Boston SYEP affects youth. We will also conduct separate focus groups of treatments and controls enhance our understanding of the mechanisms by which outcomes are achieved. Our hope is that this research can help guide program staff as they look to expand and enhance their programming efforts and also help inform City policymakers seeking to expand opportunity for all Boston youth.

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