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Paying Youth In After-School Program Cut Crime, Study Finds

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In 2021, the Urban Institute worked with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services to recruit participants for a "cash transfer" study aimed at reducing rates of violence among young men in Wilmington.

Some cash transfers provide money without stipulations. Conditional cash transfers are given with conditions, such as program attendance or work requirements. The Yes! Study included young men between 14 and 17 who were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

  • an after-school program combined with a cash transfer that participants received if they attended the first few weeks of programming.  

  • a cash transfer without any requirements.  

  • a waitlisted group that served as a control group and received no treatment until after the study was complete. 

The study found that receiving cash transfers alone led to an increase in healthy behaviors Those who received the cash transfer were less likely than the control group to engage in activities such as drinking alcohol, using marijuana, taking prescription medication without a prescription, taking part in a physical fight, carrying a weapon, or using a vapor product.

The after-school programming included financial education, which may have helped youth spend their money more wisely.

Young men who participated in the program told researchers that the programming plus cash transfers helped them avoid the violence of their neighborhoods, stay out of trouble, learn valuable skills, and form meaningful connections.

Many said that because of violence in their neighborhoods, they do not go outside except to go straight to their bus or back to their homes. The program enabled them to go to a "neutral, calm" area after school, which helped them stay away from the violence and connect with adults who could serve as role models. 

The institute said the results suggest that cash transfers on their own increase healthy behaviors and reduce risky behaviors for young men at risk of violence exposure.


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