Monday, May 6, 2013

Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment

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).

2,740 youth were randomly assigned 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.

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