This paper presents the results of three large-scale randomized controlled trials, carried out in Chicago, that tested interventions to reduce crime and dropout by changing the decision-making of economically disadvantaged youth.
The authors of this report analyze the results of three large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that examined two intervention programs aimed at reducing crime and dropout rates by changing the decision-making of economically disadvantaged youth. Those programs were: Becoming a Man (BAM); and Juvenile Detention, in Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC). Two studies examined the BAM program, which was designed by the non-profit organization, Youth Guidance; the BAM studies found that participation in the program reduced total arrests during the intervention period by 28 to 35 percent, reduced violent-crime arrests by 45 to 50 percent, improved school engagement, and in the first study which provided follow-up data, increased graduation rates by 12 to 19 percent. The third RCT tested a program with partially overlapping components, carried out in JTDC, which reduced readmission rates to the facility by 21 percent. The authors’ data on mechanisms indicate no positive evidence that those effects are due to changes in emotional intelligence or social skills, self-control or “grit,” or a generic mentoring effect, instead, the authors suggest the hypothesis that the programs work by helping youth slow down and reflect on whether their automatic thoughts and behaviors are well-suited to the situation they are in, or whether the situation could be construed differently.
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