In a year full of distressing stories — especially about race, crime and violence in urban neighborhoods — this one points to some hope. Earlier this December, we covered a summer jobs program in Chicago that appeared to lead to fewer teenage arrests for violent crime. Our original story, republished below, also reminds us that policy solutions are possible — and possibly even inexpensive.
A couple of years ago, the city of Chicago started a summer jobs programfor teenagers attending high schools in some of the city's high-crime, low-income neighborhoods. The program was meant, of course, to connect students to work. But officials also hoped that it might curb the kinds of problems — like higher crime — that arise when there's no work to be found.
Research on the program conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and just published in the journal Science suggests that these summer jobs have actually had such an effect: Students who were randomly assigned to participate in the program had 43 percent fewer violent-crime arrests over 16 months, compared to students in a control group.
That number is striking for a couple of reasons: It implies that a relatively short (and inexpensive) intervention like an eight-week summer jobs program can have a lasting effect on teenage behavior. And it lends empirical support to a popular refrain by advocates: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job."