Podcast series from J-PAL North America shares stories behind the impact of summer jobs in the US

The inaugural season of J-PAL Voices: The Impact and Promise of Summer Jobs in the United States highlights the stories behind the impact of a program that has enabled communities across the country to lower violent crime, reduce incarceration, and save lives.

Hosted by J-PAL North America’s Senior Research and Policy Manager Rohit Naimpally, the six-episode podcast explores how summer jobs programs fit into the broader goals of fostering mobility from poverty in the United States.

Summer youth employment programs place youths — many of whom come from low-income families — in part-time, minimum-wage jobs with local government agencies, community organizations, or businesses for the summer. Through these programs, youths can access mentorship, life-skills training, and other services.

Many of these programs are supported by state and federal grants and philanthropic support, and are run in most large cities in the United States. Randomized evaluations in several major cities, including Boston, Chicago, and New York City, have shown that participation in summer jobs programs reduces arrests for violent crime, incarceration, and premature deaths. 

In the podcast, Lawrence Katz, co-scientific director of J-PAL North America and an economics professor at Harvard University, tells us, “Mobility from poverty is broader than one’s income. It also encompasses the opportunity to do something meaningful, to have dignity, and to be respected as a valued member of the community.” 

Over the past year, Naimpally conducted more than 20 interviews with advocates, program coordinators, researchers, and the participants themselves about the impact that summer jobs programs have had on their lives and communities.

“Through this podcast producing process, I’ve been fascinated by the commonalities and parallels across individuals, places, and programs. During my conversation with Angela Rudolph of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services, for instance, so much of what she said resonated with what her counterpart Julia Breitman in New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development had told me,” says Naimpally. “As we build a comprehensive picture of what we know about summer jobs across locations, I am excited to try and link perspectives across jurisdictions to each other.”

“J-PAL Voices is our first foray into podcasting and an opportunity for us to tell the stories behind the research,” says Mary Ann Bates, executive director of J-PAL North America. “Rohit’s conversations with participants, program implementers, and other stakeholders will provide listeners with a holistic sense of what summer jobs represent to communities across the United States. These are the perspectives that are often not as accessible through research papers. We’re incredibly excited to explore this new medium and grateful that so many people were willing to talk to us.” 

Dave Lishansky is the sound engineer and producer of J-PAL Voices.