Today’s Solutions: May 30, 2024

Nobody wants to see their kids spending the entire summer in front of a screen. While everyone can benefit from some time off, too much free time can be a detriment to everyone, especially youth and teens. Between ages 14 and 24, youth have formative experiences which affect the rest of their lives, and it’s important, especially for youth from lower-income backgrounds, to stay busy during the summer. 

New research from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a global research center based at MIT, shows the wide-ranging benefits of summer youth employment programs (SYEPs). 

Giving kids summer jobs 

In the last 10 years, state and federal policymakers have focused more on using SYEPs to improve systemic unemployment rates. SYEPs are municipal programs that give youth mainly from lower-income backgrounds paid, part-time work during the summer. 

Findings show that SYEPs give youth valuable professional skills training, build their resumes, and help them establish professional connections and mentorships. More importantly, SYEPs are shown to have longer-lasting improvements in youths’ lives. In their new publication, J-PAL examines finding from 13 studies looking at four American cities: Boston, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. 

They found that SYEPs increase earnings and employment for involved youth, many of whom are from lower-income backgrounds and identify as Black or Hispanic. This also increases the chances of future employment for these demographics, who face higher risks of unemployment.

Additionally, SYEPs reduce youth involvement in the criminal justice system. Researchers found that the effect of SYEPs lowered arrest, conviction, and incarceration rates, and it had lasting effects of up to a year afterward. 

There was some evidence that suggested an improvement in participating youths’ education, and there was strong and promising evidence of improvement in youths’ social and emotional skills, academic and career ambitions, and work habits and cooperation. 

These findings from J-PAL create an evidence-based framework that policymakers across the country can draw on to improve and expand SYEPs. This could in turn greatly help US youths not just during the summer, but for the rest of their lives. Click here to learn more about summer youth employment programs. 

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