How Summer Jobs Programs Can Help Save Lives

New research finds 20 lives per year saved by NYC jobs program.

WASHINGTON -- Young people who hold steady summer jobs are less likely to end up in prison and more likely to stay alive than their peers without summer jobs, according to a new study of participants in New York City's summer youth employment programs.

The researchers studied participants in New York's citywide lottery for summer jobs between 2005 to 2008 and analyzed the long-term outcomes for young people. They discovered that, on average, the impact of summer jobs on mortality rates over time meant the jobs essentially saved 20 lives a year for each of the four years the study targeted.

"That turns out to be quite important when you think about 'Is the program working?'" said Judd Kessler of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the studies' authors.

"When you save lives, there’s lots of value, social value that you’re creating from the program," Kessler said in a video about the study.

Similar results appeared when researchers measured the effect of summer employment on future incarceration rates. Based on the total number of participants, the research findings suggested that by 2013, there were 112 fewer people incarcerated as a result of their participation in New York's Summer Youth Employment Program.

While the research showed that summer jobs had a marked impact on mortality and incarceration rates, the authors did not find similar effects on college enrollment rates or future earnings. "We find no evidence that the summer job … helps them go to college at higher rates [and] we don’t find great evidence for the program helping them earn more money later on," said Kessler.

The study, "The Effects of Youth Employment: Evidence from New York City Summer Youth Employment Program Lotteries," was written by Kessler; Alexander Gelber, of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley; and Adam Isen, of the Office of Tax Analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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