Study: When Kids Have Summer Jobs, Violent Crime Goes Down

May 27th 2015

Mike Vainisi

As summer begins, the Department of Labor has touted a study that revealed that students with summer jobs are 43% less likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

The study, which was authored by University of Pennsylvania criminologist Sara Heller, put 700 Chicago teens in jobs that were either 25-hours-per-week or 15-hours-per-week. The students in the study all came from schools with high rates of violence. The students were also from disadvantaged backgrounds -- 90% of them qualified for government-aided school lunch -- and were mostly minorities. They were hired in to fill roles such as camp counselors and office assistants and were paid the Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 per hour.

Interestingly, the study found violent crime actually decreased after the study was completed. This might mean the experience made a lasting impact on the students who participated.

Youth unemployment is still high

This study comes out at a time when youth unemployment -- which tracks 16 to 24-year-olds -- is stubbornly high. From April to July of 2014, the amount of unemployed young people rose by 2.1 million to 20.1 million, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In July, the youth unemployment rate was 14.3%. For young black people, who made up the majority of Heller's study, the unemployment rate was 24.8%.

A Young Invincibles study says each unemployed young person will cost the federal government and his or her state government $4,100 annually in foregone tax revenue and government subsidies. The bulk of that money -- about 90% -- is from lost tax revenue, not subsidies. So, the conclusion is that most of this cost is hidden to taxpayers because it's not a line item on the budget.

A solution?

Considering its cost to taxpayers -- from foregone tax revenue to subsidies to expenses in the criminal justice system -- youth unemployment is something that the federal government and local and state governments should be prioritizing. This can come in the form of jobs programs, where jobs are provided directly by government, or through services where the government serves as a middle man connecting young people to employers. One solution suggested by Young Invincibles is to ramp up the AmeriCorps program, which only provides 82,500 jobs despite having over 500,000 applicants.

Attn: has covered the need for more investment in AmeriCorps here.

At-risk youth, according to Young Invincibles, cost taxpayers over $100,000 over their lifetime. Heller's study of summer jobs in Chicago shows that summer jobs could help lessen that cost.