The Effects of Youth Employment: Evidence from New York City Summer Youth Employment Program Lotteries

Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen, Judd B. Kessler

NBER Working Paper No. 20810
Issued in December 2014
NBER Program(s):Children, Labor Studies, Public Economics, Health Economics

Programs to encourage labor market activity among youth, including public employment programs and wage subsidies like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, can be supported by three broad rationales. They may: (1) provide contemporaneous income support to participants; (2) encourage work experience that improves future employment and/or educational outcomes of participants; and/or (3) keep participants “out of trouble.” We study randomized lotteries for access to New York City's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), the largest summer youth employment program in the U.S., by merging SYEP administrative data on 294,580 lottery participants to IRS data on the universe of U.S. tax records and to New York State administrative incarceration data. In assessing the three rationales, we find that: (1) SYEP participation causes average earnings and the probability of employment to increase in the year of program participation, with modest contemporaneous crowdout of other earnings and employment; (2) SYEP participation causes a moderate decrease in average earnings for three years following the program and has no impact on college enrollment; and (3) SYEP participation decreases the probability of incarceration and decreases the probability of mortality, which has important and potentially pivotal implications for analyzing the net benefits of the program.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20810

Published: Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen, Judd B. Kessler; The Effects of Youth Employment: Evidence from New York City Lotteries , The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 131, Issue 1, 1 February 2016, Pages 423–460,

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