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Prof. Alicia Sasser Modestino wins grant to continue summer jobs research

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Prof. Alicia Sasser Modestino, associate professor in SPPUA and the Department of Economics, was awarded a three-year $649,557 Institutional Challenge Grant from the William T. Grant Foundation beginning July 1, 2021. Dr. Modestino’s proposal was selected from among 25 applications and four finalists.

The Institutional Challenge Grant program encourages research institutions to build long-term research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations in order to reduce inequality in youth outcomes. To do so, research institutions will need to shift their policies and practices to value collaborative research.

The grant will support Dr. Modestino’s ongoing research conducted through the Dukakis Center and in partnership with the City of Boston to evaluate the city’s renowned summer jobs program. Her prior research, also funded by William T. Grant, used a randomized controlled trial to demonstrate that the program reduces violent and property crime by 30%, increases high school graduation rates by 4 percentage points, and boosts employment and wages during the year after participating—with greater impacts on black and brown youth. These results were used to justify last summer’s $4.1 million dollar expansion of the program under Mayor Walsh during the summer of 2020 in response to COVID-19 and served as a basis for developing four new alternative programming tracks including a virtual internship track in partnership with Kemi Jona’s team here at Northeastern University

Looking forward, this new grant will support a Northeastern University research team to work with the City of Boston to develop a more holistic youth workforce development system with the goal of reducing inequality along racial and socioeconomic status. On the university side this includes a research fellow (Dr. Mindy Marks, Associate Professor in Economics), a post-doc, and an intergenerational team of students at the undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. levels to conduct rigorous research that evaluates the effectiveness of the new tracks including an “Earn and Learn” program that pays students to take college level courses. On the City side, the grant will fund a full-time policy fellow to expand the capacity of the Department of Youth Engagement and Employment, under the direction of Rashad Cope, to collect data on the program and make use of the research evidence provided by the Northeastern team to implement program changes that provide meaningful experiences for Boston’s young people. 

In the email that Dr. Modestino received announcing the award it was noted that the foundation’s “Board and staff are very enthusiastic about your project and the value it adds to our growing portfolio of Institutional Challenge Grants which are funded as a collaboration between the William T. Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the American Institutes for Research.” We congratulate Dr. Modestino on this outstanding accomplishment and the capacity it brings to Northeastern to build on the university’s experiential mission by elevating researcher-practitioner partnerships as a vehicle for conducting rigorous academic research that has an immediate and direct impact on real-world policy issues.

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