The study analyzed behavioral pattens in three groups of teens in Chicago over the course of 16 months. Over 1,600 students were assigned to one of three summer groups: The Chicago One Summer Plus program (work), The Chicago One Summer Plus program plus social-emotional support (work+support), and the control group, who were not given a spot in the program. They were free to do as they pleased during the summer, but for the sake of this post, we’ll group them as the “no work” or control faction. Researchers wanted to see if the program truly did have an impact on youth violent crime rates, as study author Sarah Heller said she heard arguments from both sides about the program’s effectiveness.
“There are opposing pieces of conventional wisdom on whether a program like this would work,” said Heller. “On one hand is the popular idea that ‘nothing stops a bullet like a job.’ On the other is a body of research on employment programs suggesting that only intensive and lengthy interventions can improve outcomes among disadvantaged youth—that one summer could never be enough.”
Those in the work group worked 25 hours a week during the summer. Teens in the work+support group were paid for 25 hours of work per week, but they worked for 15 hours and received 10 hours of social-emotional support each week. Social-emotional support was designed to help students understand and manage thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
At the conclusion of the 16-month period, researchers noted that the work and work+support groups were equally effective in reducing violent crime arrests by about 43 percent.
“The city of Chicago was courageous enough to put its One Summer Plus program to the test, and turns out that just eight weeks of summer programming decreases violent crime arrests by a huge amount for over a year after the job ends,” said Heller. “This is an incredibly encouraging finding.”
Roseanna Ander, executive director of the Chicago Crime Lab, said the results are especially worthwhile considering the demographics of the teens in the program. The majority were about 16 years old, almost all were African American, the typical student had about a C average in school, and many lived in areas of high unemployment and very high violent crime rates. She said it’s never too late to help teens in challenging situations.
“The One Summer Plus evaluation builds on other encouraging recent study findings, including those carried out by the Crime Lab, that suggest it’s not too late to help young people, even those who face serious challenges and come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Related source: News.UChicago.edu