DC Accepted Papers Paper: What’s in a Job? Evaluating the Impact of Private Sector Job Experience on Students' Academic Outcomes

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Urbashee Paul1, Alicia Sasser Modestino1 and Joseph McLaughlin2, (1)Northeastern University, (2)Boston Private Industry Council

Over the past several decades, many urban high schools have experienced little or no improvement in closing the academic achievement gap that exists along socioeconomic and racial lines (Musu-Gillette et. al. 2017; Duncan and Murnane 2011; Ladd 2012). As of 2016, 76.4 percent of Black students and 79.3 percent of Hispanic/Latino students graduated high school, compared to 88.3 percent of white students (U.S. Department of Education, 2016), despite many in-school interventions aimed at diminishing this gap. Policymakers and researchers have examined how time spent outside of the classroom can affect student outcomes, including reducing chronic absenteeism and improving high school graduation rates. Prior studies have shown, using quasi-experimental methods, that participating in sports boosts graduation rates (Stevenson 2010) and overall participation in extracurricular activities can reduce dropout rates by up to 18 percentage points (Crispin 2017).

This paper explores the impact of another type of out-of-school activity — work experience — on high school academic outcomes. Although prior literature on SYEP has found strong positive impacts of work experience for reducing crime (Heller 2014; Gelber, Isen, and Kessler 2014; Modestino 2019), the evidence on whether work experience improves academic outcomes is more mixed. For example, Leos-Urbel (2014) finds significant increases of one to two percent in school attendance for the treatment group relative to the control group during the year following participation in the New York City (NYC) SYEP, with larger improvements for students aged 16 years and older who have prior low baseline attendance. However, other research indicates that the NYC SYEP did not have a positive effect on longer-term academic outcomes, such as graduating from high school (Valentine et al. 2017) or college enrollment (Gelber, Isen, and Kessler 2016).

Our research examines the impact of job type on student academic outcomes using data on participants from the Boston Private Industry Council (BPIC), a non-profit organization that operates as one of four intermediaries for the Boston Summer Youth Employment Program. Unlike other intermediaries, BPIC works to place over 3,000 students in private sector jobs with over 200 employers in industries such as healthcare, finance, biotechnology, higher education, and real estate. We match participants to administrative school records to estimate the effect of participating in the BPIC program using propensity score matching to generate a comparison group based on detailed demographic and school characteristics. Preliminary results show that participation in the BPIC program during the summer of 2015 significantly increased the students’ school attendance in the following academic year by approximately 1.8 days. We will further refine our analysis in three ways. First, we will expand our propensity score matching model to include subsequent summer jobs participation as a factor in choosing the comparison group. Second, we will add in additional cohorts from other summers that will span 2012-2018. Third, we will explore program impacts on additional outcomes such as course failures, high school graduation, postsecondary enrollment and completion, and subsequent employment and wages.