Chicago Gave Hundreds of High-risk Teens Summer Jobs and Crime Plummeted

Chicago Gave Hundreds of High-risk Teens Summer Jobs and Crime Plummeted

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Police-line-crime-tape-Tony Webster-CC

A couple of years ago, the city of Chicago created a summer jobs program for public high school students living in high-crime, low-income neighborhoods. Officials hoped it might curb other social ills, like crime rates, that rise when there’s no work to be found.

Well, the verdict is in: The jobs program did reduce 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.

The program, One Summer Plus, offers eight weeks of part-time summer employment at the state’s minimum wage ($8.25 per hour), including positions as camp counselors, community garden workers and office assistants for aldermen. It also offers an adult job mentor to help youth learn how to be successful employees and to navigate barriers to employment.

The study’s author noted that the decline occurred largely after the eight-week summer job program ended, indicating that the program did not just keep youth busier over the summer: It changed their behavior after the job had ended as well. “This is an incredibly encouraging finding,” said Sara Heller, PhD assistant professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Mayor Emanuel is deeply committed to making investments to keep our city’s youth safe,” said Evelyn Diaz, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services. “The results demonstrate that these investments are having real, positive impacts on the lives of individual youth.”

(READ more in the Washington Post)

Photo by Tony Webster via CC license – Story tip from Kate Abbe