Youth violence is one of Chicago’s most pressing public policy problems, with more than 610 Chicago Public School (CPS) students shot between September 2008 and April 2010. Nationwide, homicide is by far the leading cause of death for blacks ages 10-20, accounting for more than the next nine leading causes combined. A careful “social autopsy” carried out by the University of Chicago Crime Lab in 2008 revealed that a large share of homicides of Chicago youth stem from impulsive behavior – young people with access to guns, massively over-reacting to some aspect of their social environment. This finding is consistent with a growing body of research showing that “social-cognitive” skills such as impulse control, future orientation, and conflict resolution are predictive of a wide range of key life outcomes.
A recent randomized clinical trial, the largest ever conducted with an urban youth population (nearly 2,500 adolescent boys in 18 schools in Chicago), carried out by the University of Chicago Crime Lab in partnership with Youth Guidance, World Sport Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools showed that an intervention called Becoming a Man-Sports Edition (“BAM”):
- Strengthened social-cognitive skills and generated massive declines in violent crimes by at-risk youth (over 40 percent) during the program year, though the impact faded the following year;
- Increased the degree to which youth were engaged in school, as measured by school attendance and class credits earned, an impact that lasted through the program year and the year following.
If these school engagement impacts persist, we estimate it would improve the high school graduation rate by 5 to 8 percentage points – a large change given that the average graduation rate of the 50 largest urban districts in the U.S. is just 53 percent. The one year of reduced violent crime arrests together with schooling impacts generate benefits from the program that are from 3 to 31 times the $1,100 per youth program costs.
To read more about the Becoming a Man - Sports Edition findings, please download the below research brief, press release, and quotes from notable dignataries involved in the BAM evaluation. Please do not hesitate to contact Roseanna Ander, Executive Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, at firstname.lastname@example.org should you have further questions or require additional information.
Download the materials: