A Multi-Year Evaluation of the Boston Youth Summer Employment Program and Features to Reduce Inequality Across Groups

Under what conditions does a summer employment program reduce academic, economic, and behavioral inequalities for economically disadvantaged youth?

Summer youth employment programs offer one approach for connecting low-income youth to jobs. Evaluations of summer youth employment programs reported mixed results on employment and earnings, however. Questions also remain about how these programs affect teens, which elements are most effective, and whether there are unique benefits for youth living in poor neighborhoods. This study will capitalize on a unique design to assess the value of participating in a summer program, the value added by participating for more than one summer, and the advantages of private versus public job placement. The study involves random assignment to a summer program, with random assignment repeated each summer. This design allows the team to estimate the effect of initial assignment to the program as well as the impact of subsequent exposures among low-income youth. The use of a lottery to determine placement also allows the team to estimate the benefit of placement in the private versus public sector. Youth outcomes from the year prior to participation through up to two years following participation will be derived from state administrative records of quarterly employment and wages; Boston Public School records on grade point average, standardized tests, attendance, and matriculation; and state and court records on criminal arraignments and convictions. To understand youth experiences with the program and its effects, the team will conduct pre- and post-program surveys and focus groups with program participants. They will examine changes in youth’s financial literacy, job readiness skills, risk behaviors, work habits, strategies for resolving conflicts, and post-secondary aspirations.

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