Thinking, Fast and Slow? Some Field Experiments to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago

59 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2015 Last revised: 23 Oct 2015

See all articles by Sara Heller

Sara Heller

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

Anuj Shah

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

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)

Sendhil Mullainathan

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Harold A. Pollack

University of Chicago - School of Social Service Administration

Date Written: May 2015

Abstract

We present the results of three large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in Chicago, testing interventions to reduce crime and dropout by changing the decision-making of economically disadvantaged youth. We study a program called Becoming a Man (BAM), developed by the non-profit Youth Guidance, in two RCTs implemented in 2009–10 and 2013– 15. In the two studies participation in the program reduced total arrests during the intervention period by 28–35%, reduced violent-crime arrests by 45–50%, improved school engagement, and in the first study where we have follow-up data, increased graduation rates by 12–19%. The third RCT tested a program with partially overlapping components carried out in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), which reduced readmission rates to the facility by 21%. These large behavioral responses combined with modest program costs imply benefit-cost ratios for these interventions from 5-to-1 up to 30-to-1 or more. Our data on mechanisms are not ideal, but we find no positive evidence that these effects are due to changes in emotional intelligence or social skills, self-control or “grit,” or a generic mentoring effect. We find suggestive support for the hypothesis that the programs work by helping youth slow down and reflect on whether their automatic thoughts and behaviors are well suited to the situation they are in, or whether the situation could be construed differently.

Suggested Citation

Heller, Sara and Shah, Anuj and Guryan, Jonathan and Ludwig, Jens and Mullainathan, Sendhil and Pollack, Harold A., Thinking, Fast and Slow? Some Field Experiments to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago (May 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21178, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2612743

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

Anuj Shah

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jonathan Guryan

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

2046 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jens Ludwig

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Sendhil Mullainathan

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2720 (Phone)
617-495-7730 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-588-1473 (Phone)
617-876-2742 (Fax)

Harold A. Pollack

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

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

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
52
Abstract Views
1,329
rank
411,752
PlumX Metrics