December 30, 2014

A better way to stop a bullet

Today a friend of mine shared an interesting item from the Washington Post that reinforces what quite a few people believe: sometimes a job is the best way to stop a bullet.

A few years back, the city created an eight week jobs program for students in high crime/low income areas. The jobs involved placement in government agencies or nonprofits. Some students worked 25 hours a week, while others worked 15 hours a week and participated in social and educational programs the other 10 hours. A control group did neither.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab tracked the results, which were amazing. As the Post's Wonkblog reports, students int he program had a 43 percent decrease in arrests for violent crimes over 16 months compared with those in the control group. The thing that is truly striking is that the results were most pronounced months after the jobs program was over.

It's hard to say just why that happened, but Wonkblog has some suggestions:

A lot of things could be going on here. Teenagers who might have committed crime to get money would no longer need to when they have a job. If their added income allowed parents to work less, they may also have gotten more adult supervision. It's also possible that students who were busy working simply didn't have idle time over the summer to commit crime — but that theory doesn't explain the long-term declines in violent arrests that occurred well after the summer program was over.... 
 That long-term benefit suggests that students who had access to jobs may have then found crime a less attractive alternative to work. Or perhaps their time on the job taught them how the labor market values education. Or maybe the work experience may have given them skills that enabled them to be more successful — and less prone to getting in trouble — back in school.
The bottom line is that positive prevention programs like these are a relatively inexpensive intervention that can provide a big payoff for everyone.

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