Summer Youth Employment Programs in Southeast Michigan
For decades, cities throughout the country have sponsored summer youth employment programs for youth from low-income communities, subsidized with contributions from the private sector as well as state and federal grants. These programs seek to introduce young people to the world of work, exposing them to potential careers, teaching them the many soft skills necessary to obtain and hold a job while providing valuable structured learning time during summer months. Advocates argue that such programs will reduce juvenile crime, increase academic performance and enhance labor market opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
The Youth Policy Lab has partnered with the Poverty Solutions initiative at U-M to develop and evaluate two local summer youth employment programs. The goal is to not only improve the opportunities for low-income youth in Southeast Michigan, but also learn about better ways to structure such programs in other locations.
Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT), Detroit’s summer youth employment program, has been serving the city’s young residents from the age of 14-24 for the past seven years. And although more than 10,000 youth have been reached and subsidized through GDYT, the program’s impact on its participants not yet been assessed in any systematic way. By linking education and criminal justice records to GDYT data, the Youth Policy Lab will investigate the program’s impact for participants in Summer 2015 and Summer 2016. We have partnered with the Michigan Department of Education, the Detroit Police Department and City Connect, a local nonprofit that administers GDYT, to study how the work opportunities influence youth outcomes, including measures like grades, test scores, graduation and criminal involvement.
In addition, the Youth Policy Lab and Poverty Solutions will launch a new summer youth employment based at the University of Michigan. A pilot in Summer 2016 will draw low-income youth from Washtenaw County, and place them in a variety of positions at UM. In addition to their work responsibilities, the youth will participate in weekly enrichment sessions designed to prepare them for future postsecondary and employment opportunities. Researchers will measure a host of academic, social and economic outcomes for youth that apply for this program, with the goal of refining the program each year based on careful data analysis. The team expects that this U-M program will expand in coming years, so that it can have a substantial impact on the surrounding communities and grow into a high-impact program for local youth, providing new lessons and ideas for researchers, practitioners and policymakers nationwide.
Job Placement Programs in Michigan
Nationwide, many Americans are still struggling to regain their footing following the recession of 2008. Even as the economy has improved, the unemployment rate remains high. Conditions are particularly troubling in Detroit, Michigan, where during the years 2010-2014, working-age adults with a high school degree or less experienced an unemployment rate of 30 percent. As part of the recovery effort, there has been a growing interest in job placement – i.e., programs which provide a subsidy for private or government employers to hire low-income or structurally unemployed individuals and, at the same time, provide employees with support to succeed in the workplace.
Community Ventures (CV) is a novel job placement program housed within the Michigan Economic Development Corporation whose goal is to reduce poverty in the state. The program connects structurally unemployed individuals in lower-income communities to sustainable, living wage jobs. A signature initiative of the State of Michigan started in 2013, Community Ventures is currently active in the cities of Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, and Saginaw, and may soon expand to Grand Rapids. As of April 2016, approximately 4,000 individuals had received job placements through Community Ventures, exceeding the program’s original enrollment goals.
The Youth Policy Lab will work with the new Poverty Solutions initiative at U-M to evaluate the impact of the Community Ventures program. Similar programs have been the subject of evaluations using random assignment examining a limited set of outcomes, and the Lab and Poverty Solutions will take a more rigorous approach within Michigan in particular with a focus on employment, earnings, state expenditures, recidivism, housing stability, health, mental health and other potential outcomes.
The Intersection of the Child Welfare and Education Systems in Michigan
The Youth Policy Lab has partnered with U-M’s Child and Adolescent Data Lab and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to explore how interactions with the child welfare system influence the educational outcomes of Michigan youth. Over 20 percent of all Michigan children come into contact with Child Protective Services at some point, and the rate in high-poverty areas is well over 50 percent. We seek to better understand factors that place students at risk of academic difficulty and help to determine which settings and practices can best serve this important subpopulation of children.
Our research is based on newly-merged data from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), which will enable our team to look at variables like charter school enrollment and attendance, involvement in the juvenile justice system, foster care placement and the type of placement and enrollment in the MDHHS Pathways to Potential program to identify any possible correlation with youth outcomes like school mobility, attendance, grades, test scores, high school graduation and enrollment in postsecondary programs. Phase I of the project will include a descriptive analysis that will lay the foundation for a Phase II, where we work with local agencies to explore and evaluate different programs and policies that might help improve the outcomes for children at risk of abuse and neglect.
Maternal Infant Health in Michigan
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is currently pursuing initiatives to improve the health and well-being of pregnant women, mothers and infants living in low-income households in Michigan, and the Youth Policy Lab will assist MDHHS in two important pieces of this work. First, MDHHS is undertaking a Pay for Success project with West Michigan-based Spectrum Health to expand Michigan’s Strong Beginnings program, which provides home visitation, social support, referrals and other wraparound services to pregnant women and new moms who may not otherwise have access. To ensure Strong Beginnings is as effective as possible, and as part of the Pay For Success project, MDHHS will formally evaluate the program to determine its impact on two distinct, important and measurable indicators: 1) the rate of pre-term births and 2) the rate of ‘rapid-repeat’ pregnancies –new pregnancies occurring within 12-24 months of a recent birth – often monitored for possible public health and policy interventions and as a way to ensure positive long-term health, economic and developmental outcomes for moms and children.
The Youth Policy Lab will advise MDHHS and work with the evaluation team to help develop the evaluation plan for Strong Beginnings. The Lab will also serve as a validator for MDHHS to certify that on-the-ground evaluators have closely followed the methodology outlined in the evaluation plan.
Second, and in addition to Strong Beginnings, MDHHS plans to identify and grow other high-impact initiatives that improve outcomes for high-risk mothers and children statewide, possibly to include another Pay for Success project with the Nurse Family Partnership and redesigning the existing referral system for maternal health programs. As part of this partnership, the Lab will work with MDHHS to identify, design and implement these and other promising initiatives.