NYU Steinhardt News

Amy Ellen Schwartz, Director of IESP, recently testified at NYS Senate Committee on Social Services Public Hearing

Testimony of Amy Ellen Schwartz

NYS Senate Committee on Social Services Public Hearing:

The Future of Youth Development / Delinquency Prevention (YDDP), the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and the Impact of Potential Minimum Wage Increase on these Programs

March 11, 2013

Albany, NY


Thank you for the opportunity to give testimony today. I appreciate the commitment of the New York State Committee on Social Services to improving youth development in New York. My name is Amy Ellen Schwartz. I am the Director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University. I am also a Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics at the Wagner School and The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at the University. My research is primarily in applied econometrics, focusing on issues in urban policy, education policy and public finance.

Today I will give an overview of our research and discuss the potential positive effects on youth outcomes of Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). I'll highlight our findings and share our plans to expand the research. This research would not have been possible without the efforts of my co-authors, Jacob Leos-Urbel, Meryle Weinstein, and Beth C. Weitzman, and our collaboration with the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, New York City Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, and the Spencer Foundation.

What it is SYEP?

As most of you know SYEP is administered by New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). All NYC youth ages 14-24 are eligible to participate in the program. Youth apply through community-based organizations (CBOs) throughout the city which serve as intake sites, supervise job placements, and provide training.  Participants work in entry-level jobs in the non-profit, private, and public sectors.  Placements with summer camps and day care centers are most common. Participants work up to 25 hours per week for 7 weeks and earn the New York State minimum wage. Ten percent of these hours are devoted to education and training. The research I’ll be talking about today focuses on NYC high school students who apply to SYEP

Why it may work

There are many reasons to think that SYEP may have a positive effect on youth outcome such as: learning new skills, gaining responsibility, self esteem and knowledge of workplace expectations. Even for those doing menial tasks, it could give them a view into what their future would look like without further education. Prior research also suggests that keeping youth engaged in productive activities helps prevent negative outcomes that could interfere with their educational success. These are all similar to reasons that middle class parents give for wanting their children to have summer jobs or other positive experiences during the summer.

We also know that money makes people better off. SYEP provides income for NYC youth during the summer. Students who apply to SYEP are overwhelmingly low income with approximately 90% eligible for free or reduced price lunch. This income during the summer may also reduce the amount of time that students need to work during the school year, which may allow them to spend more time on academics

Challenges to estimating the impact

Research estimating the effect of work on youth outcomes can be very challenging. Often there is a concern that youth who decide to work are different than those who do not work (e.g. more motivated, responsible, etc.). This makes it very difficult to parse out what is the effect of an employment program versus what is simply due to workers and non-workers being different.

However, we do not have this problem in estimating the impact of SYEP. Demand for SYEP greatly exceeds the number of slots available, and participation is determined through a lottery system. The lottery represents the “gold standard” for program evaluation, as it randomly assigns youth to SYEP. This random assignment allows us to derive causal estimates of the impact of SYEP on educational outcomes, including school attendance, and attempting and passing English and math Regents exams.


Thus far our research has focused on NYC public school students who applied to SYEP in 2007. We matched SYEP data for the summer 2007 program year to NYC Department of Education files so that we can look at educational outcomes. Our sample includes 36,630 SYEP applicants who were NYC public school students in grades 8-11 during the 2006-07 school year. We find that SYEP increases school attendance in the following year about 2 additional days of school in the following year. Students at greater educational risk, those ages 16 and older with less than 95 percent attendance before SYEP, demonstrate larger gains, about 3-4 days.

We also find that SYEP increases the probability of attempting and passing English and math Regents exams for these students ages 16 and older, with low prior school attendance. For these students, SYEP increases the probability of attempting the English Regents by 2.9 percent and of passing by 1.7 percent. For math Regents, the increase is 1.2 percent for attempting and 1.3 percent for passing. This amounts to about 100 additional students passing each exam.

These findings suggest that even though SYEP’s explicit goals focus is on workforce readiness, the program has a broader impact on youth including an increase in school attendance and test attempts and passing the Regents.

Finally, we plan to expand our research in this area:

  1. Examining additional years of data
  2. Evaluating the impact of SYEP on other outcomes such as high school graduation and college enrollment
  3. Studying the impact of participating in SYEP for multiple summers

Thank you, again, for your time and allowing me to share our findings in support of SYEP and other youth development programs.


To view the video of her testimony, please visit the NY Senate website by clicking here. Amy's testimony begins at 1:42:24.