We investigate the empirical support for these three rationales by analyzing the SYEP program in the years 2005 to 2008, inclusive. During these years, SYEP provided summer jobs to NYC youth aged 14 to 21, paid by the NYC government at a total cost of $236 million.4 Each year, SYEP received more applications than the number of SYEP jobs available. In the face of this excess demand, SYEP randomly allocated spots in the program to applicants by lottery. We compare the outcomes of individuals who participate in SYEP because they were randomly selected to receive a job through SYEP, to the outcomes of individuals randomly not selected. We examine the effect of SYEP on observable outcomes suited to assess each of the rationales for summer youth employment programs. We link SYEP administrative data on these lottery winners and losers to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administrative data on the universe of U.S. federal tax data; to New York State (NYS)
Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS) administrative data on individuals incarcerated in NYS; and to NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) administrative data on causes of death in New York City.
SYEP places participants in entry-level jobs and pays them the NYS minimum wage for working up to 25 hours per week during the summer. There are various types of SYEP jobs, including jobs at summer camps, daycare centers, government agencies, hospitals, law firms, museums, and retail organizations. Nearly half of SYEP jobs are at summer camps or day care centers. All NYC youth who are able to provide certain documentation are eligible to apply for SYEP. In order to be eligible, applicants must show proof of identity using an official picture ID; proof of employment authorization; proof of age; proof of Social Security Number using a Social Security card; working papers for those under 18; proof of citizenship/alien status; proof of address; proof of family income; and a signed SYEP application.
SYEP is administered by community-based organizations called “providers,” which contract with DYCD to place SYEP participants into worksites and administer the program. Participants typically do not work directly for providers, but rather typically work for the employers to which providers match participants. During the summer, the providers also give participants approximately 17.5 hours of workshops on job readiness, career exploration, financial literacy and opportunities to continue education. Individuals choose which provider to apply to; applicants typically choose a provider located near their home. In a given year, an applicant applies to only one provider and is unable to apply to other providers at any point in that year. They apply for the program online or at a SYEP provider during the application period, usually early-April to mid-May of the program year. Since there are more applicants than available slots in each year, the individuals who are allowed to participate in SYEP are selected by lottery. There are 62 SYEP providers in our data. Within each provider, there is a lottery to determine which individuals are selected for SYEP. Thus, winning the lottery is random conditional on applying to a given provider.
In each year, SYEP selected applicants through a series of lotteries. In an initial lottery, SYEP randomly selected winners and losers, where the number of winners was chosen to match the number of SYEP jobs available. However, not all of the individuals selected through this initial lottery participated in SYEP. Selected individuals may have chosen not to participate or failed to prove eligibility to participate. In order to fill the remaining slots, SYEP providers conducted subsequent lotteries. In each lottery, the number of winners was selected in order to match the number of remaining jobs at the SYEP provider, until the number of SYEP enrollees approximately matched the number of available jobs.