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Summer work experience programs

Health Factors: Employment
Decision Makers: Employers & Businesses Local Government State Government Federal Government Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Summer work experience programs provide short-term employment for youth, usually 14-24 year olds. Offered through both public and private sector organizations, placements are often in low-skill positions. Programs usually focus on creating opportunities for youth in low income families and may include job search support or academic components.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased employment
Increased earnings
Improved student attendance
Decreased violence
Increased job skills

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that summer work experience programs increase employment and earnings for youth during the year that they participate (MDRC-Valentine 2017, Gelber 2016, PPV-McClanahan 2004), especially disadvantaged youth (Gelber 2016). Youth work experience programs are also a suggested strategy to build employment history and skills (Sum 2008). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Evaluations of federally supported, state-implemented programs suggest summer youth employment may increase soft skills (Mathematica-Rosenberg 2011) and work readiness skills (Mathematica-Bellotti 2010), and provide personal and professional development opportunities for at-risk youth (BHS-Curnan 2010). Summer jobs provided through New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) may increase the likelihood of taking and passing statewide exams, particularly among high-risk students (Leos-Urbel 2014), but do not appear to increase school attendance, high school graduation (MDRC-Valentine 2017), or college enrollment (MDRC-Valentine 2017, Gelber 2016). Such programs may also decrease the risk of incarceration and mortality for up to three years, especially among disadvantaged youth (Gelber 2016). An evaluation of One Summer Plus in Chicago suggests summer jobs may reduce violence among low income black youth one year after program participation (Heller 2014).

Despite immediate positive employment effects, summer work experience programs do not appear to increase employment rates in years after program participation (MDRC-Valentine 2017, Gelber 2016, PPV-McClanahan 2004), perhaps due to the short length of the intervention (PPV-McClanahan 2004) or because participants might have found longer term job opportunities without program support (Gelber 2016).


United States

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act requires that local communities that receive youth formula funds spend at least 20% of those funds on work experience activities such as summer jobs, pre-apprenticeship, on-the-job training, and internships (US DOL-WOIA). The Summer Youth Employment Program in New York City, Seattle, and Washington DC (Gelber 2016), and Los Angeles’ Hire L.A. Youth (Hire LA Youth) are examples of summer work experience programs.


The Milwaukee Summer Youth Internship Program is an example of a summer work experience program in Wisconsin (Milwaukee-Internship).

Implementation Resources

NSLA-Resources - National Summer Learning Association (NSLA). Resources for Communities. Accessed on January 4, 2017
YG-Summer - (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Supporting summer youth employment programs. Accessed on December 19, 2016

Citations - Evidence

BHS-Curnan 2010 - Curnan SP, Hahn AB, Bailis LN, et al. Innovating under pressure: The story of the 2009 recovery act summer youth employment initiative: Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis & Marion County, Phoenix & Maricopa County. Waltham: Center for Youth and Communities, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University; 2010. Accessed on December 8, 2016
Gelber 2016* - Gelber A, Isen A, Kessler JB. The effects of youth employment: Evidence from New York City lotteries. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2016;131(1):423-460. Accessed on December 19, 2016
Heller 2014* - Heller SB. Summer jobs reduce violence among disadvantaged youth. Science. 2014;346(6214):1219-1223. Accessed on December 19, 2016
Leos-Urbel 2014* - Leos-Urbel J. What is a summer job worth? The impact of summer youth employment on academic outcomes. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 2014;33(4):891-911. Accessed on December 19, 2016
Mathematica-Bellotti 2010 - Bellotti J, Rosenberg L, Sattar S, Esposito AM, Ziegler J. Reinvesting in America’s youth: Lessons from the 2009 recovery act summer youth employment initiative. Princeton: Mathematica Policy Research (MPR); 2010. Accessed on December 8, 2016
Mathematica-Rosenberg 2011 - Rosenberg L, Angus MH, Pickens C, Derr M. Using TANF funds to support subsidized youth employment: The 2010 summer youth employment initiative. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research; 2011. Accessed on December 19, 2016
MDRC-Valentine 2017 - Valentine EJ, Anderson C, Hossain F, Unterman R. An introduction to the world of work: A study of the implementation and impacts of New York City's summer youth employment program. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC); 2017. Accessed on June 19, 2017
PPV-McClanahan 2004 - McClanahan WS, Sipe CL, Smith TJ. Enriching summer work: An evaluation of the summer career exploration program. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures (PPV); 2004. Accessed on December 19, 2016
Sum 2008 - Sum A, McLaughlin J. Out with the young and in with the old: US labor markets 2000-2008 and the case for an immediate jobs creation program for teens and young adults. Boston: Center for Labor Market Studies Publications, Northeastern University; 2008. Accessed on December 8, 2016

Citations - Implementation

Gelber 2016* - Gelber A, Isen A, Kessler JB. The effects of youth employment: Evidence from New York City lotteries. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2016;131(1):423-460. Accessed on December 19, 2016
Hire LA Youth - City of Los Angeles. Hire LA’s Youth. Accessed on December 19, 2016
Milwaukee-Internship - City of Milwaukee. Mayor Barrett’s summer youth internship program SYIP. Accessed on December 8, 2016
US DOL-WOIA - US Department of Labor (US DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA). Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: WIOA Overview. Accessed on March 1, 2017

Page Last Updated

December 27, 2016

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