The newest findings from a multi-year study of Boston’s summer youth employment program show a significant byproduct: a decrease in crime. Among the 600+ young people studied who participated in the 6-week jobs program, arraignments for:

  • violent crime dropped by 35%
  • property crime dropped by 57%

black teen wearing "Youth Employee" T-shirt trims weeds around a benchEven larger declines were found among African American and Hispanic males. Notably, this overall crime reduction took place over a 17-month period after the program concluded, suggesting that the jobs program doesn’t merely prevent idle hands from finding trouble in the moment. It appears to be making some deeper impact.

So what is going on here?

To answer this question, author Alicia Sasser Modestino of Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, turned to an earlier phase of the research that measured the program’s short-term impacts on participants. That survey data showed that participants reported increased job readiness skills, college aspirations, and positive feelings toward their communities, as compared with a control group.

One theory for how summer jobs could reduce crime posits that when a young person gains greater access to profitable employment, they may be less tempted by illicit methods of making money. However, Modestino found no correlation between participants’ increased job readiness and educational aspirations and a decrease in criminal activity. What she did find, though, was a correlation for those youth who reported improved social skills through the program. Those skills included the ability to regulate one’s emotions and resolve conflicts with others. That makes this the first study, to Modestino’s knowledge, to suggest how summer youth employment programs can produce long-term criminal justice outcomes.

The Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development and its constituent organization, YOU Boston, contributed data for the study.

About Boston’s Summer Youth Employment Program

Since 1990, Boston’s summer jobs program has connected urban youth with both private sector jobs and subsidized jobs with nonprofits, community-based organizations, and government agencies. With the help of state, city and private funding, the program each summer places roughly 10,000 young residents, ages 14-24, in jobs with some 900 employers. The participants are paid minimum wage and engage in a work-readiness curriculum.

 

Want to learn more? Read the study, “How do Summer Youth Employment Programs Improve Criminal Justice Outcomes, and for Whom?”, or last year’s study on the earlier program survey data. You can also listen to a WBUR radio segment or watch a Fox Boston 25 NEWS video on the study’s findings. Or watch the Northeastern University video below.