Dr. Heller will assist in developing the experimental design, ensuring confidentiality of the data and human subjects protections, analyzing the data, producing the scholarly and policy products, disseminating the findings, and supervising the research assistant.
Acts of violence kill over 160 people per day in the U.S., generating tremendous costs for the criminal justice system, victims, and offenders. Although a great deal of social science theory suggests that programs to enrich job prospects among disadvantaged youth should reduce their involvement in crime and violence, empirical evidence has been mostly discouraging.
Two recent studies, however, have uncovered a more optimistic finding in both Chicago and New York City: A short, relatively inexpensive youth employment program – supported summer jobs – dramatically reduces violent offending and mortality from homicide.
Policymakers have responded by calling for greatly expanded or even universal summer opportunities for youth. But if not every youth responds to an intervention in the same way, or if the details of the program or setting matter, universal programming or fast expansions of different program models may not have the intended effect. Building smart crime-reduction policy on good evidence requires more than one or two studies; it requires replications and expansions that address what works for whom, and where.

This proposal aims to provide some of that evidence by conducting a randomized controlled trial of Philadelphia’s summer jobs program, WorkReady, in summer 2017. The project aims to assess how generalizable the Chicago and New York City findings are by testing program impacts on crime, violence, and incarceration in a new setting. This RCT will provide U.S. policymakers with important evidence as to whether summer jobs programs consistently reduce violence and criminal justice involvement, or whether decision-makers should think more carefully about targeting and program content as they try to generalize the results of the first two promising studies to other settings. If the WorkReady program is shown to reduce violence, other crime, and/or incarceration in Philadelphia, it will provide important evidence about how to reduce the burden currently on the juvenile justice system. Moreover, the study’s benefit-cost analysis will help practitioners and policymakers weigh whether this reduced criminal justice involvement justifies the program’s cost