Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2012, $277,621)
OJJDP's Community-Based Violence Prevention (CBVP) Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation (FIRE) Program supports methodologically rigorous research and evaluation studies that inform policy and practice consistent with the Department of Justice's mission. OJJDP is funding field-initiated studies to inform what is understood about how communities can prevent and reduce violence involving youth. This program is authorized pursuant to the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, 2012, 42 USC 5631; Pub. L. 112-55, 125 Stat. 552, 617.
Policymakers have long believed that youth unemployment is a key contributing factor to youth violence. Unemployment contributes to poverty and idleness, particularly over the summer, and limits opportunities for youth to develop human capital (including social-cognitive skills such as self-regulation, future orientation, and conflict resolution that are correlated with crime and violent behavior). Yet despite tens of billions of dollars in federal spending on youth summer employment programs over several decades, there is little rigorous evidence on their effects. This proposal requests support to study a large-scale, randomized summer jobs program that is one of the centerpieces of Chicago's violence prevention efforts. The city's community partners recruited 1,634 low-income youth living in high-crime neighborhoods. Our research team randomly assigned 350 to a community-based summer jobs program, 350 to a summer jobs program that also includes an explicit focus on development of social-cognitive skills, and 934 to the control group. The University of Chicago will measure delinquency, violence involvement, schooling, and formal labor market outcomes using longitudinal government administrative data for the summer and subsequent years, and carry out a benefit-cost analysis to compare the cost-effectiveness of this intervention to other strategies for reducing crime and improving life outcomes of disadvantaged youth.