Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment

81 Pages Posted: 4 May 2013

See all articles by Sara Heller

Sara Heller

University of Chicago; University of Pennsylvania - Jerry Lee Center of Criminology

Harold A. Pollack

University of Chicago - School of Social Service Administration

Roseanna Ander

University of Chicago

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: May 2013

Abstract

Improving the long-term life outcomes of disadvantaged youth remains a top policy priority in the United States, although identifying successful interventions for adolescents - particularly males - has proven challenging. This paper reports results from a large randomized controlled trial of an intervention for disadvantaged male youth grades 7-10 from high-crime Chicago neighborhoods. The intervention was delivered by two local non-profits and included regular interactions with a pro-social adult, after-school programming, and - perhaps the most novel ingredient - in-school programming designed to reduce common judgment and decision-making problems related to automatic behavior and biased beliefs, or what psychologists call cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). We randomly assigned 2,740 youth to programming or to a control group; about half those offered programming participated, with the average participant attending 13 sessions. Program participation reduced violent-crime arrests during the program year by 8.1 per 100 youth (a 44 percent reduction). It also generated sustained gains in schooling outcomes equal to 0.14 standard deviations during the program year and 0.19 standard deviations during the follow-up year, which we estimate could lead to higher graduation rates of 3-10 percentage points (7-22 percent). Depending on how one monetizes the social costs of crime, the benefit-cost ratio may be as high as 30:1 from reductions in criminal activity alone.

Suggested Citation

Heller, Sara and Pollack, Harold A. and Ander, Roseanna and Ludwig, Jens, Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment (May 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2260653

Sara Heller (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

No Address Available

University of Pennsylvania - Jerry Lee Center of Criminology ( email )

483 McNeil Building
3718 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6286
United States

Harold A. Pollack

University of Chicago - School of Social Service Administration ( email )

969 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Roseanna Ander

University of Chicago ( email )

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

3600 N Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20057
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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