Associate Professor Alica Sasser Modestino’s paper, “How Do Summer Youth Employment Programs Improve Criminal Justice Outcomes, and for Whom?” has been accepted for publication at the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
Cities across the U.S. have turned to summer youth employment programs (SYEPs) to improve the behavioral, economic, and academic outcomes of inner-city youth. This paper evaluates the impact of the Boston Summer Youth Employment Program using both experimental and non-experimental
variation. Similar to previous studies of summer jobs programs in other cities, I make use of an embedded randomized controlled trial and find that the program reduces violent crime by 35 percent, as measured by the number of arraignments from administrative records during the 17 months after participation. In contrast to prior work, I also find a similar reduction in arraignments for property crimes (–29 percent). This study also provides exploratory evidence on the mechanisms driving these reductions in crime using self-reported responses of participants from a pre-/post-program survey. The results provide suggestive evidence that the beneficial impacts on violent and property crime are largely driven by improved conflict resolution skills versus other factors that would increase the opportunity cost of crime. These findings give researchers some insights into the behavioral changes that occur during the program while also providing a look inside the “black box” as to how SYEPs affect youth outcomes in the long run.