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JPAM published an RCT examining the effect of NY City's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) on youth crime. Quick take: Large, high-quality RCT finds negligible impact on youth crime over a 5-year follow-up (authors' claims notwithstanding).

Program & Study Design:

  • SYEP provided NYC youth with 25 hours/week of work for 6-7 weeks during the summer, & paid them minimum wage. The program was open to all NYC youth ages 14-21.

  • The study sample comprised 163,447 youth ages 16-21 who applied to SYEP in 2005-2008 & were randomly assigned via lottery to a treatment group (offered the program) vs a control group.


  • The RCT found a statistically significant, but very small, decrease in arrest rates during the summer program (0.64% of T  were arrested vs 0.77% C). It found no effects over the following 1, 3, & 5 year periods (by year 5, 11.1% of both T & C had been arrested).

  • There were suggestively larger impacts for youth with a prior arrest (a statistically significant 3% point decrease in arrest during the program, but no significant effects thereafter). But this was a post-hoc subgroup, so the effect could well be due to chance especially given the numerous subgroups examined.


  • Based on careful review, this was a high-quality RCT (e.g., large sample, good baseline balance, negligible attrition). The published study abstract (linked here) unfortunately presents the results as unambiguously positive.

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