Summer Youth Employment Research

Research + Best Practices

'Recent research is encouraging, but more and better evidence of what works is necessary to ensure quality.' - Brookings Institution report, 'Youth Summer Jobs Programs: Aligning Ends and Means.' July 2016.The Summer Youth Employment Program is both an opportunity to provide jobs, and also to test what works and what doesn’t work with youth employment programs like this. U-M’s program aims to push the boundaries on existing best practices and to build a very rigorous evaluation structure to research the effectiveness.

While existing research on the success of youth summer jobs programs is limited, U-M called on a field of experts and existing studies to help inform the structure of this summer’s pilot program.

U-M convened a panel of experts, and relied on research conducted by associate professor of Social Work Trina Shanks, and co-authors Christine Robinson and Patrick Meehan, examining hallmarks of effective youth employment programs in a new report that spans several U.S. Cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Hartford, CT. Find out more about this event.

Research suggests that a strong education component is among the best practices, and U-M’s program will include training and enrichment activities every Friday on topics such as applying to college and managing money.

U-M will also employ success coaches — recent U-M graduates who will serve as mentors and engage participants in weekly enrichment activities, focusing on skills ranging from effective communication to conflict management resolution.

Over the course of the program, researchers will evaluate the effects of participation in a structured summer employment program at the University of Michigan on the attitudes and behavior of youth and young adults. They will also look at success over the long-term, examining outcomes including how the experience may impact knowledge about the world of work and personal interests, abilities regarding employment, and the labor market in general, as well as any education or juvenile justice outcomes.

Principal Investigators

H. Luke Shaefer, Director of Poverty Solutions
Mary Jo Callan, Director of Ginsberg Center
Youth Policy Lab
U-M Human Resources

For more information on the University of Michigan’s partnership with Washtenaw County and the Summer Youth Employment Program, contact Poverty Solutions assistant director Julia Weinert at