Panel: Preventing Violence and Measuring its Impact on Youth

Thursday, November 2, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Water Tower (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Sarah Komisarow, Duke University
Panel Chairs:  Amy Ellen Schwartz, Syracuse University
Discussants:  Jens Ludwig, University of Chicago

Proximal Impacts of Community Violence on Student Behavior in Schools
Rebecca Hinze-Pifer and Lauren Sartain, University of Chicago

Does Neighborhood Violence Cause Kids to Miss School?: Evidence from Daily Absenteeism Data
Fabio Rueda de Vivero and Amy Ellen Schwartz, Syracuse University

Community Crime Monitoring and Schooling Outcomes: Evidence from Chicago's Safe Passages Program
Sarah Komisarow, Duke University and Robert Gonzalez, University of South Carolina

Rethinking the Benefits of Youth Employment Programs: The Heterogeneous Effects of Summer Jobs
Sara Heller, University of Pennsylvania and Jonathan Davis, University of Chicago

A growing body of research documents the negative effects of exposure to community violence on children’s cognitive outcomes and performance on student achievement tests.  Despite increasing evidence of these negative impacts, there is limited understanding of how exposure to neighborhood violence affects students’ educational outcomes more broadly, what causal mechanisms might mediate these observed effects, and – importantly – how public policy might effectively intervene in schools and in local communities to address these issues. 

This panel investigates the consequences of exposure to neighborhood violence for students’ educational outcomes and presents causal evidence on public policy interventions designed to reduce this exposure and to curtail youth involvement in criminal activity.  The first two papers on this panel investigate the effects of exposure to neighborhood violence on students’ educational outcomes, including absences, student behavior, and perceptions of school climate and community safety, while the final two papers present evidence from two policy interventions designed to decrease exposure to neighborhood violence and to reduce youth involvement in crime. 

The first paper on this panel probes the documented causal link between exposure to neighborhood violence and student achievement by investigating a previously unexamined mechanism: student absences.  By exploiting high-frequency, geo-coded crime data and daily, student-level data on school absences, this paper sheds light on how exposure to neighborhood violence affects patterns of student absenteeism.  The second paper further advances this understanding by investigating not only the effects of exposure to neighborhood violence on student attendance patterns, but also on student behavior in school (e.g., misbehavior and disciplinary infractions) and on students’ perceptions of themselves, their schools, and their communities.  By leveraging student-level administrative data, student-level surveys, and high-frequency, geo-coded data on violent crimes, this paper presents novel evidence on how neighborhood violence affects student outcomes. 

In addition to presenting evidence on how neighborhood violence affects student outcomes, this panel also explores the role that policy interventions might play in addressing neighborhood violence and crime.  The third paper on this panel presents evidence on one strategy that policymakers may use to decrease exposure to neighborhood violence: by targeting violence and crime near schools.  This paper investigates the impact of a unique school-based, community monitoring intervention on crime near schools and its subsequent effect on student attendance.  The final paper on this panel investigates the effects of a supported summer jobs program on crime, labor market, and schooling outcomes of disconnected youth.  It estimates these effects using two randomized controlled trials, as well as a new machine learning method to predict treatment heterogeneity from participant observables.  The results provide new insight into who benefits from youth employment programs and why, thus offering new evidence for policymakers who are interested in preventing youth involvement in crime and improving the outcomes of disconnected youth.

Taken together, this panel improves the understanding of how exposure to violence affects student outcomes and offers evidence on how policy interventions could address this exposure and decrease youth involvement in criminal activity.

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