Summer jobs reduce violence among disadvantaged youth

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Science  05 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6214, pp. 1219-1223
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257809

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Every day, acts of violence injure more than 6000 people in the United States. Despite decades of social science arguing that joblessness among disadvantaged youth is a key cause of violent offending, programs to remedy youth unemployment do not consistently reduce delinquency. This study tests whether summer jobs, which shift focus from remediation to prevention, can reduce crime. In a randomized controlled trial among 1634 disadvantaged high school youth in Chicago, assignment to a summer jobs program decreases violence by 43% over 16 months (3.95 fewer violent-crime arrests per 100 youth). The decline occurs largely after the 8-week intervention ends. The results suggest the promise of using low-cost, well-targeted programs to generate meaningful behavioral change, even with a problem as complex as youth violence.

An ounce of prevention is better than violence

Children and adolescents spend a large fraction of their lives in schools. Many discussions about improving adult behavior focus on improving cognitive skills. Nevertheless, retrospective analyses also highlight the importance of noncognitive skills. Heller reports on the positive effects of a Chicago program that offered disadvantaged youths 25 hours per week of summer employment. Youths enrolled in this program committed fewer violent crimes for at least a year after the summer job ended.

Science, this issue p. 1219

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