A public summer jobs program for high school students from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago reduced violent crime arrests by 43 percent over a 16-month period, according to a new study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Pennsylvania.
The randomized controlled trial is published in the journal Science.
This research comes as youth employment in the summer months, when teenagers are most likely to work, is near a 60-year low. The challenges facing minority and low-income youth are particularly stark; the 2010 employment rate for low-income black teens in Illinois was less than one-fourth the rate for higher-income white teens: 9 percent vs. 39 percent.
Study author Sara Heller, (PhD ’13), Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, noted that acts of violence kill almost 150 people daily in the United States, and injure more than 6,000 – a level the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call a public health crisis. Youth (ages 10-24) are twice as likely as adults to be victims or perpetrators of violence, and the problem is concentrated among disadvantaged minority youth. Joblessness has been identified by experts as one of the major causes of these racial violence disparities.
The new study evaluated the impact of Chicago’s One Summer Plus program, which offers eight weeks of part-time summer employment at Illinois minimum wage ($8.25/hour) and an adult job mentor to help youth manage barriers to employment.