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When Scale and Replication Work: Learning from Summer Youth Employment Experiments

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2021
47 pages

This working paper uses two new randomized controlled trials of summer youth employment programs in Chicago and Philadelphia to demonstrate how multiple experiments can ultimately aid efforts to reduce social inequality.


The author of this paper seeks to evaluate how to increase the success of summer youth employment programs (SYEPs) as part of a greater effort to aid policymakers by informing how public spending decisions for intervention programs can be more effective. The author reports the results of two new randomized controlled trials in Chicago, with 5,405 participants, and in Philadelphia, with 4,497 participants, which were designed to analyze how SYEPS change when they scale, how implementation variation matters, and how heterogeneous populations respond to similar interventions across contexts. In order to assess questions of replicability and scale, the author does three things: reports the two experiments’ main effects to determine how consistent impacts are when approaches are scaled up or implemented differently in a previously unevaluated setting; uses both experimental and non-experimental variation in program size, design, and delivery across local providers to assess how variation in these features shapes variation in treatment effects; and leverages patterns of individual treatment heterogeneity across outcomes, subgroups, and studies to establish how effects may change as programs expand or policymakers make different targeting decisions. The author suggests that the overall outcome of the experiments reported indicates that SYEPs are scalable and that the deeper understanding of treatment of heterogeneity provided in this paper gives policymakers additional information about how to replicate and strategically scale to maximize social impact.

Date Published: April 1, 2021