One Summer Chicago

Violent crime in Chicago peaks in the hot summer months: There are about twice as many shootings on days over 85 degrees as there are on days under 50 degrees. This striking difference has led policymakers to create special preventative supports during the summer season, including job programs for young people. But until recently, there wasn't any evidence to suggest whether temporary summer employment was effective at preventing violence.

That’s why Chicago’s Department for Family & Support Services turned to the Crime Lab for research support. The City of Chicago had begun a program called One Summer Chicago, which offered 8th through 12th grade students eight weeks of part-time, paid summer employment, and wanted to know whether it was actually helping to keep kids and communities safe. 

The Crime Lab’s analysis focused on students from 13 high schools that had particularly high rates of violent crime arrests and victimization. All 730 students accepted into the program were paired with a job and a mentor, and some participants also received help with learning how to engage in a professional environment. The program itself lasted eight weeks, but the Crime Lab continued to track the participants’ outcomes for another thirteen months. 

The results were dramatic: Young people who were offered jobs were 43% less likely to be arrested for violent crimes, and their lower crime involvement lasted beyond the summer – in fact, the impact was largest during the months following employment. 

The findings were published in the prestigious journal Science and philanthropists Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Mark and Kimbra Walter were so impressed that they made a combined two-year, $10 million investment in the program.

Discussing the investment with Philanthropy News, Mark Walter said, “As a result of the research findings, we felt compelled to help bring this opportunity to a greater number of kids who can benefit.”

When the program was first launched in 2011 there were spots for 2,800 kids. The year after, we analyzed its effectiveness, and by 2019, that number increased ten-fold, with 32,000 jobs and internships available for Chicago’s youth.