Job Corps is the United State’s largest and most comprehensive training program for disadvantaged youth aged 16–24 years old. A randomized social experiment concluded that, on average, individuals benefited from the program in the form of higher weekly earnings and employment prospects. At the same time, “young adults” (ages 20–24) realized much higher impacts relative to “adolescents” (ages 16–19). Employing recent nonparametric bounds for causal mediation, we investigate whether these two groups’ disparate effects correspond to them benefiting differentially from distinct aspects of Job Corps, with a particular focus on the attainment of a degree (GED, high school, or vocational). We find that, for young adults, the part of the total effect of Job Corps on earnings (employment) that is due to attaining a degree within the program is at most 41% (32%) of the total effect, whereas for adolescents that part can account for up to 87% (100%) of the total effect. We also find evidence that the magnitude of the part of the effect of Job Corps on the outcomes that works through components of Job Corps other than degree attainment (e.g., social skills, job placement, residential services) is likely higher for young adults than for adolescents. That those other components likely play a more important role for young adults has policy implications for more effectively servicing participants. More generally, our results illustrate how researchers can learn about particular mechanisms of an intervention.
We thank Charles Moss and Larry Kenny for comments on an early version of this work.
Bampasidou, M., Flores, C.A., Flores-Lagunes, A. and Parisian, D.J. (2014), "The Role of Degree Attainment in the Differential Impact of Job Corps on Adolescents and Young Adults", Factors Affecting Worker Well-being: The Impact of Change in the Labor Market (Research in Labor Economics, Vol. 40), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 113-156. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0147-912120140000040004
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