Having a summer job may not give kids much of a financial leg up for the future, but it does help keep them out of trouble, according to a study published this week.
The study, which tracked the wages, mortality and incarceration rates of 200,000 14 to 26 year olds who applied or participated in New York’s youth employment programs, found that participants who held steady summer jobs were not only less likely to end up in prison, they were also more likely to stay alive.
“We were particularly surprised about the mortality results: In essence, the program saved about 20 lives per year over the four years that we studied,” wrote the researchers, who were from the Wharton School of Business, the University of California at Berkeley and U.S. Treasury Department.
To determine the number of lives saved, researchers compared the mortality rate of those who were offered a spot in the summer employment program between 2005 and 2008 and compared it with the mortality rates of those who did not end up participating in the program, said Judd Kessler, assistant professor of business economics and public policy at Wharton. In total, they saw a nearly 20% reduction in the mortality rate among those who participated in the program.
“Those of us who have been in this field for many years have always known intuitively that the program, while only a six-week program, kept people engaged and out of trouble,” said Bill Chong, New York City’s Commissioner of Youth and Community Development, which oversees the programs the researchers studied. “What I think surprised us from the study was the long-term impact.”
However, working during the summer did little to boost the participant’s future earnings potential or the likelihood that they would go on to enroll in college, the researchers found.
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