The international aid community presents education and employment programs as the keys to mitigating youth participation in violence. Yet, existing evidence suggests that faith in such programs may be misplaced. This study investigates this disconnect between faith and evidence. It argues that education and employment programs are commonly built on an economically-focused “dominant discourse” that makes presumptions about youth and their interests. Based on qualitative research with youth in Nairobi, Kenya, it further argues that this dominant discourse overlooks self-identity and social connectedness factors that are crucial to youth, as well as the limitations imposed by governance and structural conditions.