WHEN THE TOPIC of the achievement gap comes up, the conversation invariably veers to all the out-of-school factors facing low-income students and students of color that are correlated with poorer outcomes on academic performance, high school graduation, and other measures.
New research evidence among Boston high school students points to an out-of-school factor that can help close those gaps: a job.
Programs that provide summer jobs for lower-income high school students are often touted as a way to keep young people busy and out of trouble, while putting some badly needed money in their pockets. Research has shown a clear decrease in criminal activity among those in such programs. But the evidence has been less clear on the impact of youth employment on school-based outcomes.
A new study looking at the experience of Boston high school students taking part in a summer jobs program, however, shows clear benefits on graduation rates. The study, led by Alicia Sasser Modestino, the research director at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, found that students who took part in a summer jobs program were 4.4 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than those who did not land jobs. They also had a “small but significant improvement in overall GPA” in the year following the summer job.