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New Issue Brief: Summer Jobs Programs Significantly Reduce Crime

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press release

New Issue Brief: Summer Jobs Programs Significantly Reduce Crime

November 18, 2021

Mayor-elect Adams has an opportunity to capitalize on summer programs’ crime-fighting capabilities by expanding research on New York’s SYEP 

NEW YORK, NY — Like cities across the country, New York is still struggling with a violent crime wave, as murders, shootings, assaults, robberies, and car thefts remain dramatically elevated relative to 2019. While potential tough-on-crime policies from new Mayor-elect Eric Adams will hopefully play a role in restoring public safety, the former police captain also has a non-police resource at his disposal, which has proven effective in cutting crime. Last summer, the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) connected 75,000 young New Yorkers with work. But the city gained more than just a fleet of young workers; the program significantly reduced participants’ propensity to commit crime. In a new Manhattan Institute issue brief, MI fellow Charles Fain Lehman reviews the research on SYEPs and makes the case for conducting more.  

Analyses of programs in four different big cities—New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia—find that young people given a summer job are dramatically less likely to be arrested or incarcerated for a variety of offenses compared to those who are not. While this conclusion is supported by research across all state programs, the reason for the programs’ success is less clear. Existing findings conflict on whether programs like New York City’s SYEP reduce crime primarily during the summer program or afterwards. Additionally, SYEPs across the country have several variables like employer type, peer influence, and the nature of the work itself, which make attributing crime-fighting success to a particular mechanism difficult. Lehman points out that the same research also reveals these programs have little to no impact on participants’ academic performance or future earnings. So while the programs provide participants with a wage and deter them from crime, they don't seem to improve their performance in school or their earnings later in life. 

With crime continuing to rise, it seems worthwhile to figure out why these programs deter crime. Adams has already promised to expand New York’s SYEP year-round, but Lehman suggests he should go further. Specifically, the mayor-elect should turn the nation’s largest SYEP into a laboratory, giving researchers insight into how and why these programs cut crime—and how their benefits may be replicated in other cities desperate for solutions. 

Click here to view the full issue brief.

Contact

Leah Thomas
Press Officer
(419) 266-5959
lthomas@manhattan-institute.org

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