The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some cities cutting summer youth employment programs (SYEPs) at a time when youth unemployment is skyrocketing, thereby depriving low-income youth of important developmental activities that have been shown to improve long-term criminal justice, academic, and employment outcomes. Through a previous Rapid Response Research grant, Modestino partnered with the Boston Mayor’s Office to preserve this year’s summer jobs program, resulting in an additional $4.1-million to fund 8,000 summer jobs in four new tracks developed to ensure meaningful experiences that would help participants develop skills and behaviors shown to lead to better long-term outcomes. These tracks included: 1) “Blue Shirts” Public Works program to engage youth in helping to maintain parks and other outdoor recreational spaces; 2) Peer-to-Peer COVID-19 Campaign to engage youth in developing and disseminating messages about COVID-19 and safe practices; 3) Virtual Internships matching youth with job opportunities at companies and community-based organizations taking their work online; and 4) Earn and Learn to enable students to take summer school courses and earn certifications to ameliorate learning loss from the school year. The current study will assess whether the four tracks can replicate the behaviors and skills associated with in-person jobs and test which are correlated with better long-term outcomes for youth by expanding survey data collection efforts and linking to administrative records that capture long-term criminal justice, academic, and employment outcomes. Key findings will be based on comparing the experiences of youth in the treatment versus a control group for two intermediaries that use a lottery system where youth are assigned to the SYEP program at random.
What are effective and feasible summer youth employment options in the context of COVID-19?