The (Surprising) Efficacy of Academic and Behavioral Intervention with Disadvantaged Youth: Results from a Randomized Experiment in Chicago

59 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2014 Last revised: 10 Apr 2015

See all articles by Philip J. Cook

Philip J. Cook

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy; Duke University, Dept. of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kenneth Dodge

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy

George Farkas

University of California, Irvine

Roland G. Fryer

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; University of Chicago

Jonathan Guryan

Northwestern University - Human Development and Social Policy (HDSP) Program; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jens Ludwig

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Susan E. Mayer

Irving Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies

Harold A. Pollack

University of Chicago - School of Social Service Administration

Laurence Steinberg

Temple University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: January 2014

Abstract

There is growing concern that improving the academic skills of disadvantaged youth is too difficult and costly, so policymakers should instead focus either on vocationally oriented instruction for teens or else on early childhood education. Yet this conclusion may be premature given that so few previous interventions have targeted a potential fundamental barrier to school success: "mismatch" between what schools deliver and the needs of disadvantaged youth who have fallen behind in their academic or non-academic development. This paper reports on a randomized controlled trial of a two-pronged intervention that provides disadvantaged youth with non-academic supports that try to teach youth social-cognitive skills based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and intensive individualized academic remediation. The study sample consists of 106 male 9th and 10th graders in a public high school on the south side of Chicago, of whom 95% are black and 99% are free or reduced price lunch eligible. Participation increased math test scores by 0.65 of a control group standard deviation (SD) and 0.48 SD in the national distribution, increased math grades by 0.67 SD, and seems to have increased expected graduation rates by 14 percentage points (46%). While some questions remain about the intervention, given these effects and a cost per participant of around $4,400 (with a range of $3,000 to $6,000), this intervention seems to yield larger gains in adolescent outcomes per dollar spent than many other intervention strategies.

Suggested Citation

Cook, Philip J. and Dodge, Kenneth and Farkas, George and Fryer, Roland G. and Guryan, Jonathan and Ludwig, Jens and Mayer, Susan E. and Pollack, Harold A. and Steinberg, Laurence, The (Surprising) Efficacy of Academic and Behavioral Intervention with Disadvantaged Youth: Results from a Randomized Experiment in Chicago (January 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w19862. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2386403

Philip J. Cook (Contact Author)

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy ( email )

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Duke University, Dept. of Economics

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Kenneth Dodge

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy ( email )

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George Farkas

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Campus Drive
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Roland G. Fryer

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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American Bar Foundation

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University of Chicago ( email )

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Jonathan Guryan

Northwestern University - Human Development and Social Policy (HDSP) Program ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Jens Ludwig

University of Chicago ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Susan E. Mayer

Irving Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

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Syracuse, NY 13244-2130
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Harold A. Pollack

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

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

Laurence Steinberg

Temple University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Weiss Hall
1701 N. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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