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White House Report Highlights Jon Guryan's, Diane Schanzenbach's Research on Disadvantaged Youth


A new report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers highlights key findings of IPR economists Jonathan Guryan, who has studied youth programs to reduce crime and dropout, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, who has studied universal preschool and income inequality. Guryan and Schanzenbach contribute key evidence about promising programs for the President's policies on reducing violence and improving early education among disadvantaged youth.

Economic Costs of Youth Disadvantage and High-Return Opportunities for Change” recommends investment in proven strategies for improving youth opportunities and outcomes. It outlines “key milestones in every young person’s life where we can apply evidence-based practices, and proven strategies, to improve outcomes for our children. When America misses these milestones, we fail our youth – and imperil our economic future,” the report states.

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Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Guryan’s research points out programs that can improve opportunities for disadvantaged youth to reach their potential and contribute to society. One of four programs highlighted for reducing violence is the Becoming a Man program studied by Guryan and his colleagues at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The researchers found that participation improved school outcomes and reduced violent crime arrests by 44 percent.

To improve decision making in high-stress situations, the Becoming a Man program, developed by Youth Guidance nonprofit in Chicago, makes disadvantaged young men more aware of their automatic responses. In-school sessions may be supplemented by after-school training in sports such as martial arts to increase discipline and focus.

Another violence reduction program highlighted in the White House report is one that Guryan and his colleagues studied at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. A curriculum incorporating cognitive behavior therapy resulted in reductions in return rates of 22 percent. In this program trained staff prepared incarcerated youth to respond consciously in high-stress situations and also provided incentives for good behavior. Guryan completed both of these studies with Sara Heller, Anuj Shah, Jens Ludwig, Senhil Mullainathan and Harold Pollack.

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Jonathan Guryan

The White House report also cites Guryan’s 2008 study on racial discrimination and racial wage gaps. Guryan and Kerwin Kofi Charles documented wage discrimination based on racial prejudice, concluding that “racial prejudice among whites accounts for as much as one-fourth of the gap in wages between blacks and whites.” The report cites this study as evidence of the troubling obstacles in employment that young people of color face at various stages of their lives.

Research findings by Schanzenbach are also cited in the White House report. One of the critical milestones discussed in the report is “entering school ready to learn,” and Schanzenbach’s research provides evidence of the benefits of preschool, especially for low-income children. She reported her findings for the Brookings Institution in “The Impacts of Expanding Access to High-Quality Preschool Education.”

When Schanzenbach and Elizabeth Cascio tracked children in state-level universal preschool programs in Georgia and Oklahoma, they found school achievement gains that can be measured even in eighth grade. They also estimated the value of increased future earnings from these programs, showing “substantial benefits for each child, likely at least $2.70 to $7.20 in benefits for every $1 spent.”

The White House report also cites Schanzenbach’s research on food stamps as it discusses how bridging income gaps can have long-term benefits for children. Shanzenbach’s analysis with Hilary Hoynes found that "nutritional assistance can improve health outcomes in childhood and adulthood, as well as economic self-sufficiency in adulthood, even if an individual received only temporary income support during childhood."

Both Schanzenbach and Guryan are economists and research fellows with NBER. At Northwestern, they are faculty fellows at the Institute of Policy Research and faculty members in the Human Development and Social Policy program. Guryan researches racial inequality and the economics of education while Schanzenbach researches early childhood education, economics of education, anti-poverty policy, education and health.

The Council of Economic Advisers, an agency within the Executive Office of the President, provides the President with economic advice on economic policy. This advice is based on the best economic research and empirical evidence available to support the President in setting  economic policy, according to the Council.

This story originally appeared on the School for Education and Social Policy's website, here.