Do Youth Employment Programs Work? Evidence from the New Deal

Shari Eli, University of Toronto
Anna Aizer, Brown University
Adriana Lleras-Muney, University of California, Los Angeles
Keyoung Lee, University of California, Los Angeles
Barbara Smith, U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO)

Recent studies have documented the effects of temporary work programs on participant outcomes up to three years later. However, there is no work done on their long-term effects and most studies do not investigate outcomes other than employment and training (Card et al. 2015, Barnow and Smith 2015). We examine the impact of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – a means-tested youth employment program during the New Deal era – on the lifetime outcomes of participants. The CCC was a relief program that employed poor, unemployed men aged 17 to 25 in environmental conservation work around the U.S. from 1933 to 1942. We collected and digitized the entirety of available administrative service records of participants in Colorado and New Mexico from state archives and linked them to mortality, census and other later-life records. Our data include information on 28,343 individuals, 18,644 of whom originate from Colorado and 9,699 from New Mexico. Because we have detailed information on participants, such as the enrollee’s name, the name of one of his household members, his exact birth date, and his county of residence, we are able to match 69% of individuals to mortality records. In our analysis, we document the conditional correlation between duration of service and age of death using OLS and find that a year of service translates to 0.7 years of additional life. These effects are highly statistically significant and robust to varying specifications, controlling for individual characteristics. We also relate the CCC program to modern jobs programs and assess differences in outcomes.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 92. A History of the Labor Force