Evaluation Summary: The Effects of Youth Employment

Numerous summer jobs programs in the United States seek to support the employment of disadvantaged youth. These programs have multiple goals, including providing supplemental income to low-income youth, providing work experience that will improve future employment prospects, and reducing criminal or other dangerous activity.

An evaluation by Alexander Gelber (University of California Berkeley), Adam Isen (US Department of the Treasury), and J-PAL affiliate Judd Kessler (University of Pennsylvania) studied participants in the New York City Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), which used a lottery to determine participation. The researchers studied the impact of SYEP on the earnings, employment, college enrollment, incarceration, and mortality of the participating youth.

The results of the evaluation found that SYEP increased earnings and probability of employment during the year of the program. The program modestly reduced near-term subsequent earnings and had little impact on subsequent employment or college enrollment. The researchers also found that SYEP participation significantly decreased the probability of incarceration and mortality. The high cost of preventable death and incarceration suggest that a reduction in these outcomes may substantially affect cost-benefit assessments of summer youth employment programs.

Read our full evaluation summary on the J-PAL North America website.

Below, see study author Judd Kessler discussing the study and how summer jobs programs can potentially save lives.

Study cited: Gelber, Alexander, Adam Isen, and Judd B. Kessler. “The Effects of Youth Employment: Evidence from New York City Summer Youth Employment Program Lotteries.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 131, No. 1, February 2016, pp. 423-460.

Author: Carolyn Ruh

Carolyn Ruh is an Undergraduate Policy Intern at J-PAL North America. As a Policy Intern, Carolyn helps write summaries of research articles and updates the J-PAL North America blog. Carolyn is currently studying economics at Boston College with a minor in Faith, Peace and Justice. She has previously worked with ACCION East, a nonprofit in Cambridge that provides small business loans throughout the United States.

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