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Preenting Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment

May 2013

Sarah Heller, Harold A. Pollack, Roseanna Ander, Jens Ludwig


This paper reports on results of a randomized controlled trial of an intervention for disadvantaged males in 7th-10th grade in high crime neighborhoods in Chicago. Two non-profits worked together to deliver regular interactions with a social worker, after school programs, and cognitive behavioral therapy to a random sample of these disadvantaged males. Participating in the program led to a 44% reduction in arrest for violent crime in the sample group. Participation also led to long term, statistically significant gains in education outcomes, including grades and test scores.

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Policy Implications

Given the low cost of the intervention per pupil (about $1,100) and low numbers of sessions attended, the gains in schooling performance and reduction in crime were surprisingly large. There is some question about whether the results could be replicated in a drastically different environment (i.e. suburban or rural), but the evidence seems argue that a policy supporting systematic intervention that pairs 1-1 time with a trained counselor with after school programming could result in a drop in crime in our urban areas, as well as improved performance of disadvantaged student. The results are hopeful, but more study is needed.

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