Improving schooling and life outcomes of disadvantaged youth is a top priority in the US, but to date not many interventions have been shown to improve the outcomes of these youth, especially males. The core theme for our overall program project is to assess the most effective (and cost-effective) ways to improve long-term life outcomes for disadvantaged youth. In the summer of 2013 we identified a study sample of 2,134 males entering 9th and 10th grade in 12 public high schools on Chicago's south and west sides, working in close collaboration with Chicago Public Schools (CPS). These youth were randomized to receive a very promising academic intervention (high-dosage math tutoring delivered by Match Education, which in previous non- experimental studies by our collaborator Roland Fryer have been found to boost math scores by 0.5 to 0.7 standard deviations for 6th and 9th graders), or to a very promising non-academic intervention (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy called """"""""Becoming a Man,"""""""" or BAM, developed and implemented by a non-profit in Chicago, Youth Guidance), or to receive both, or neither. The interventions were launched in August 2013 with outside (non-NICHD) support. Project 2 focuses on the non-academic intervention, which is based on our theory that a great deal of socially costly behavior by disadvantaged youth is due to overly automatic (or what psychologists call """"""""system 1"""""""") behavior that is adaptive to some situations but maladaptive in others. The intervention helps promote meta-cognition (reflection and """"""""thinking about thinking"""""""") and recognition of high- stakes situations in which their automatic responses may not be optimal, so that they can engage in more reflective, deliberative (""""""""system 2"""""""") type decision-making. This project would draw on longitudinal administrative data to measure impacts on both academic outcomes and non-academic outcomes like involvement in risky, delinquent or violent behavior, and labor market participation and earnings. Project 2 seeks support from NICHD to partially support a second year of the non-academic intervention (AY2014-15), which would greatly enhance the statistical power of the study and let use examine dose-response relationships. The remaining costs of AY2014-15 intervention would come from a foundation grant to Youth Guidance and (hopefully) city funding, which is covering BAM costs for AY2013-14 and which we expect to be renewed for AY2014-15. Combined with project 1 we would be able to examine the relative benefit-cost ratios of our promising non-academic intervention compared to the promising academic intervention, and to test whether delivering both to youth simultaneously yields synergistic (more than additive) effects. Combined with project 3 we would be able to learn more about mediating mechanisms, which has not been possible to date since previous pilots relied on administrative data.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1)
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University of Chicago
United States
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Heller, Sara B; Shah, Anuj K; Guryan, Jonathan et al. (2017) Thinking, Fast and Slow? Some Field Experiments to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago. Q J Econ 132:1-54