June 13, 2013 | Contribution by
NURIA RODRIGUEZ-PLANAS Nuria Rodriguez-Planas Visiting Research Fellow, IZA
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida’s
“Beyond School Walls” at JAXPORT (The Jacksonville Port Authority)
Photo credit: JAXPORT, Meredith Fordham Hughes
Young people are among the big losers of the recent financial crisis, with their rates of unemployment and joblessness double those of the adult population in many countries. Can formal mentoring programs help youth who are disadvantaged and most-at-risk? It's a question that Nuria Rodriguez-Planas, a Visiting Research Fellow at Germany's Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) has explored. She tells the JKP that rigorous evaluations of U.S. programs find positive yet modest effects — especially in the "soft" skills (self esteem, relationship with peers and parents), rather than higher academic performance. But these benefits tend to fade away within a year of the program ending — and in some cases, unintended detrimental effects occur (higher criminal activity, poorer health outcomes).
What is needed, she says, is more careful evaluations of programs, especially over a longer time frame, to pinpoint what works and what doesn't — including whether these programs are helping young people (even on the soft skill front) meet the desired skills of future employers.
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