Sara Heller

University of Michigan
Department of Economics
611 Tappan Street, Lorch Hall Room 238
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
NBER Program Affiliations: CH
NBER Affiliation: Faculty Research Fellow

NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2017Rethinking the Benefits of Youth Employment Programs: The Heterogeneous Effects of Summer Jobs
with Jonathan M.V. Davis: w23443
This paper reports the results of two randomized field experiments, each offering different populations of youth a supported summer job in Chicago. In both experiments, the program dramatically reduces violent-crime arrests, even after the summer. It does so without improving employment, schooling, or other types of crime; if anything, property crime increases over 2-3 post-program years. To explore mechanisms, we implement a machine learning method that predicts treatment heterogeneity using observables. The method identifies a subgroup of youth with positive employment impacts, whose characteristics differ from the disconnected youth served in most employment programs. We find that employment benefiters commit more property crime than their control counterparts, and non-benefiters also s...
May 2015Thinking, Fast and Slow? Some Field Experiments to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago
with Anuj K. Shah, Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig, Sendhil Mullainathan, Harold A. Pollack: w21178
We present the results of three large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in Chicago, testing interventions to reduce crime and dropout by changing the decision-making of economically disadvantaged youth. We study a program called Becoming a Man (BAM), developed by the non-profit Youth Guidance, in two RCTs implemented in 2009–10 and 2013– 15. In the two studies participation in the program reduced total arrests during the intervention period by 28–35%, reduced violent-crime arrests by 45–50%, improved school engagement, and in the first study where we have follow-up data, increased graduation rates by 12–19%. The third RCT tested a program with partially overlapping components carried out in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), which reduced readmi...

Forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics citation courtesy of

May 2013Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment
with Harold A. Pollack, Roseanna Ander, Jens Ludwig: w19014
Improving the long-term life outcomes of disadvantaged youth remains a top policy priority in the United States, although identifying successful interventions for adolescents - particularly males - has proven challenging. This paper reports results from a large randomized controlled trial of an intervention for disadvantaged male youth grades 7-10 from high-crime Chicago neighborhoods. The intervention was delivered by two local non-profits and included regular interactions with a pro-social adult, after-school programming, and - perhaps the most novel ingredient - in-school programming designed to reduce common judgment and decision-making problems related to automatic behavior and biased beliefs, or what psychologists call cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). We randomly assigned 2,740 yo...
August 2010Family Income, Neighborhood Poverty, and Crime
with Brian A. Jacob, Jens Ludwig
in Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, Philip Cook, Jens Ludwig, Justin McCrary, editors
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