The city of Chicago took a unique route in combating crime: by giving jobs to students in high-crime, low-income neighborhoods. The result: 43% fewer violent-crime arrests.
A study on the program directed by The University of Chicago Crime Lab produced optimistic results. The study contained 1,634 teens across 13 different schools, providing them with minimum wage jobs working 25 hours a week. The jobs included camp counselors, office assistants, and working in community gardens. The second part of the program included assigning mentors to these students, and 10 hours a week spent learning to manage pent up emotion that would be inhibiting in trying to acquire secure employment.
Students who were randomly selected for the program had 43 percent fewer violent-crime arrests relative to students in a control group. These results are important because they show how unique policy solutions are possible and can promote meaningful change. Although the program only lasted 16 months, a decline in violent crime was seen even 14 months after the program had concluded.
The study suggests that equality of opportunity is a vital component of an individual’s healthy participation in society — and that it’s important that people from all socio-economic backgrounds have access to work in order to improve the quality of their lives.
ASSESSMENT: The success of the program in Chicago shows that long-term progress can be achieved by not only providing people with income opportunities, but by putting them in constructive environments where character is built. Fortunately, programs of this sort are relatively inexpensive and represent unique policy solutions.