Sara Heller

Experimental Evidence on Reducing Problem Behaviors and Improving Employability in Job Corps

Research Project Description

While the U.S. labor market has continued to recover from the Great Recession, youth employment has lagged significantly behind, particularly for minority males. African-American male dropouts are more likely to be incarcerated than employed. Evidence from Chicago and elsewhere suggests a promising way to reduce anti-social behavior and increase employment and earnings among disadvantaged youth: a short-duration behavioral intervention that draws on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) principles. CBT interventions work by teaching youth to slow down their automatic reactions and think more carefully in high-stakes situations. The project is to develop a CBT-based curriculum that leverages a large-scale and well-established training program for disadvantaged youth ? Job Corps. Job Corps centers have been engaging a large number of youth for many years (program appropriations in 2016 were $1.7 billion for operations at 126 sites, with capacity to serve 60,000 youth annually). Leveraging Job Corps lowers the cost of the new CBT program by alleviating the need to find space and staff or identify and recruit new youth. We will develop, pilot, and test a CBT curriculum specific to the Job Corps context and focused on job skills. In particular, we will implement a RCT that tests the impact of the CBT-based program on program completion and on short- and medium -run employment outcomes, as well as criminal behavior. Following the completion of the project, we will make the curriculum and program materials available free -of- charge to all Job Corps centers and other program providers nationwide, providing a template for program implementation at scale.

Laura and John Arnold Foundation

Funding Period: 6/1/2018 to 6/30/2021

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