Recent randomized evaluations conducted in New York City and Chicago suggest summer youth employment programs may lead to substantial declines in violent crime. An earlier evaluation of one such program, One Summer Chicago Plus (OSC+), which included both mentorship and summer employment, found that the program reduced violent-crime arrests among participants by 43 percent over the next year and a half. These results raised subsequent questions about how OSC+ reduced violent-crime arrests.
In order to better understand how summer jobs programs like OSC+ reduce violence, J-PAL affiliates Marianne Bertrand (University of Chicago) and Sara Heller (University of Pennsylvania) partnered with the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, City of Chicago, and Inner City Youth Empowerment, LLC to conduct a randomized evaluation of the current expansion of OSC+. In order to evaluate how OSC+ worked, researchers randomly assigned applicants to the oversubscribed program to one of three groups: a group receiving jobs and mentors, a group receiving jobs but not mentors, and a control group, which is not offered employment but is free to pursue outside opportunities. By varying whether applicants who receive a job offer also receive mentorship services, researchers hope to better understand the role of mentorship in reducing violent crime.
This study is currently ongoing. Researchers will track applicants to OSC+ using administrative data in order to assess how access to a job and a mentor impacts outcomes in schooling, criminal justice and employment; researchers will also conduct surveys to better understand determinants of success in the program
Study Cited: Bertrand, Marianne and Sara Heller. 2015. “One Summer Chicago PLUS: Scaling and “Unpacking” a Successful Program.” AEA RCT Registry. September 02.