Thinking, Fast And Slow? Some Field Experiments To Reduce Crime And Dropout In Chicago
Heller et al. (2017)
We present the results of three large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in Chicago, testing interventions to reduce crime and dropout by changing the decision making of economically disadvantaged youth. We study a program called Becoming a Man (BAM), developed by the nonprofit Youth Guidance, in two RCTs implemented in 2009–2010 and 2013–2015.
In studies 1 and 2, youth from the disadvantaged south and west sides of Chicago were randomly assigned to take part in the Become A Man (BAM), a 27 one-hour, once-a-week group sessions held during the school day over a single school year program designed to make these youth think more carefully about the situations they are in.
In study 3, the intervention was carried out in some juvenile delinquent detention residential units, consisting of a package of reforms that included a token economy for good behavior inside the facility, increased educational requirements for staff, and a daily program delivered by the detention center's staff that had many elements similar in spirit to BAM.
1) In the two studies participation in the program reduced total arrests during the intervention period by 28–35%, reduced violent-crime arrests by 45–50%, improved school engagement, and in the first study where we have follow-up data, increased graduation rates by 12–19%.
2) The third study tested a program with partially overlapping components carried out in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), which reduced readmission rates to the facility by 21%.
3) We find no positive evidence that these effects are due to changes in emotional intelligence or social skills, self-control or “grit,” but do find support that the programs work by helping youth slow down and reflect on whether their automatic thoughts and behaviors are well suited to the situation they are in, or whether the situation could be construed differently.