Summer jobs for youth pay off

Study shows boost in graduation rates

WHEN THE TOPIC of the achievement gap comes up, the conversation invariably veers to all the out-of-school factors facing low-income students and students of color that are correlated with poorer outcomes on academic performance, high school graduation, and other measures. 

New research evidence among Boston high school students points to an out-of-school factor that can help close those gaps: a job. 

The research made use of the fact that summer jobs programs often have more applicants than available slots. Looking at Boston students who applied for summer jobs in 2015 through the anti-poverty organization ABCD, which used a lottery to randomly award positions, the study compared outcomes of those students who got a job through lottery with those who did not. That eliminated any bias that would come from comparing students who sought a job with those who didn’t. 

The cost of the summer jobs was roughly $2,000 per participant, or about $2.4 million for the 1,200 students in the ABCD program. The graduation rate gain seen in the study would correspond with roughly 48 additional high school graduates. With a net benefit to taxpayers of roughly $127,000 for every high school graduate over their lifetime, those additional graduates would confer an added benefit of $6 million over their lifetimes.