1. Job Corps

Job Corps

Program Theory/Background

Job Corps is the nation’s largest federally funded vocationally focused education and training program for economically disadvantaged youths. Job Corps was established by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and currently operates under the provisions of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The U.S. Department of Labor administers Job Corps through a national office and six regional offices and provides services through partnerships with private and public agencies. Job Corps delivers intensive education (academic and general health) and training (vocational and social skills) to participants enrolled in its nationwide network of residential campuses. This training is delivered through a combination of classroom and practical hands-on experiences to prepare youths for stable, long-term, high-paying jobs. Training approaches and methods vary to allow for individualized instruction to meet the needs of each participant.

Target Population/Eligibility

To be eligible for Job Corps, participants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be between 16 and 24 years old
  • Be a legal U.S. resident
  • Be economically disadvantaged (receiving welfare or food stamps)
  • Live in an area with high crime rates, limited job opportunities, or a disruptive home life
  • Need additional education, training, or job skills
  • Be nonviolent or free of serious behavioral problems
  • Have a clean health history
  • (For participants who have children) have a child care plan
  • Have registered with the Selective Service Board
  • (For minors) have parental consent
  • Be judged to have the capability and aspirations to participate in Job Corps

Program Activities/Goals

Job Corps services are delivered in three stages: 1) outreach and admissions, 2) center operations, and 3) placement. Outreach and admissions functions are usually performed by agencies located in economically disadvantaged communities, both urban and rural. These agencies recruit participants for Job Corps by providing information about the program to community groups and civic organizations that work with youth (schools, courts, welfare agencies). Job Corps offers vocational training for more than 75 different trades. The typical Job Corps center will offer youths 10 or 11 trades for which to receive training.

Center operations include the program’s core services of academic education, vocational training, residential living, and health care along with a wide range of other services, such as counseling, social skills training, health education, and recreation. Though enrollment in this phase of the program does not have a fixed duration, participants are typically involved for 8 months. Most of the enrolled participants will reside at one of the Job Corps centers during their vocational training and education classes. The residential living is one of the unique aspects of the Job Corps program. Even the minority of participants who do not reside on campus spend most of the workweek (Monday through Friday) on campus. Both residential and nonresidential participants receive meals and health and dental care, and are allowed to participate in all of the various activities offered. Finally, placement services and agencies help former Job Corps participants get jobs that will allow them to be self-sufficient or to pursue additional training. These services start while youths are enrolled in the Job Corps centers and continue for up to 6 months after they leave the program.

The main goal of Job Corps is to help youths become more employable and productive citizens. This is measured primarily across four broad areas: 1) educational attainment, 2) employment and earnings, 3) reduction of public assistance, and 4) reduction in crime and recidivism. Job Corps targets economically disadvantaged and at-risk youths with additional education, vocational training, and support services to help them secure stable, high-paying jobs. Another important aspect of becoming a productive citizen is to teach civic awareness and respect for others. This assists Job Corps in achieving its secondary goals of reducing criminal offending and recidivism within this population of youths.

Intervention ID

16 to 24


Study 1


Schochet, Burghardt, and Glazerman (2001) found that participation in Job Corps led to statistically significant reductions in arrests. Almost one third of control group members (32.6 percent) were arrested during the 48-month follow-up period, compared with 28.8 percent in the treatment group. This impact corresponds to a 16 percent reduction in the arrest rate attributable to participation in the Job Corps program. Additionally, about 18 percent of control group members were arrested more than once, and nearly half of those arrests occurred within the first year after random assignment. Program group members were also less likely to have arrest charges for all categories of crimes, except for assault. This suggests that the crime reductions had a uniform impact rather than just reducing substance use or property offenses.


A similar beneficial impact was found for convictions. More than 25 percent of the control group members were convicted, pled guilty, or were adjudged delinquent in the 48-month follow-up period, compared with 22 percent of the treatment group members. The statistically significant impact resulted in a 17 percent reduction in convictions for participants in the Job Corps program. This is attributed to participants in the treatment group being arrested at lower rates than members of the control group, as about 75 percent of participants arrested (both treatment and control) were convicted.


Job Corps participation also reduced incarceration rates and time spent incarcerated. About 18 percent of control group members were incarcerated, compared with 16 percent of treatment group members. This impact resulted in a 17 percent reduction in the incarceration rate. Job Corps participants spent an average of about six days less in jail than those in the control group. This translates to a 14 percent reduction in time spent in jail during the 48-month follow-up period. Similar to the conviction findings, these findings were due to a large difference in arrests between members of the treatment group and the control group. In other words, fewer overall arrests in the treatment group resulted in fewer overall convictions, which resulted in fewer overall incarcerations.

Alcohol/Drug Usage

This study showed no statistically significant long-lasting findings for alcohol and drug usage. Job Corps participation had no statistically significant effect on cigarette smoking. Both control and treatment group members smoked cigarettes before the 12-month survey and continued to report regular smoking at the 30- and 48-month surveys.

Participation in Job Corps slightly reduced alcohol consumption at the 12-month follow-up. However, this small effect was evident at neither the 30-month nor the 48-month follow-up survey. That is, by the last data collection there was no significant statistical difference between treatment and control members in terms of alcohol consumption.

There were no significant statistical differences found between the treatment and control groups for illegal drug use as well. Job Corps participation had no impact on the use of marijuana, hashish, or hard drugs at the 12-, 30- and 48-month surveys.


The employment rate of the control group was significantly higher than that of the treatment group during the period when many treatment group members were enrolled in Job Corps. These differences narrowed over time, as Job Corps members left the program and started to gain employment. Impacts of the Job Corps program become positive 2 years after random assignment. This effect grew stronger between the second- and third-year follow-up periods and remained fairly constant by the fourth-year follow-up. In year 4, the average quarterly impact on the employment rate was about 3 percentage points (69 percent for the treatment and 66 percent for the control). Treatment group members spent more time in education and training programs, and their employment rate did not surpass the control group until the second-year follow-up.

A similar result was found for time employed, which was measured by weeks employed and number of hours worked per week. Again, the control group members worked more weeks and more hours during the week during the time when treatment group members were enrolled in Job Corps. As treatment group members left Job Corps and started working, this difference narrowed. The positive impacts of the Job Corps program were evidenced in quarters 8 and 12 (the second- and third-year follow-up periods).


Job Corps members had better earnings, especially in years 3 and 4 of the study. Similar to the employment findings, control group members initially earned more than treatment group members, as they were enrolled in Job Corps and not yet earning wages. Average weekly earnings were significantly higher for control group members than for treatment group members during the first 5 quarters after random assignment. However, starting in quarter 7 and growing throughout quarters 8 and 12 (or the third year of the study), treatment group members started earning more than control group members. By year 4 of the study, Job Corps members demonstrated a statistically significant positive impact on their earnings. Job Corps members were earning about $211 per week, compared with control group members, who were earning about $195 per week. Job Corps participants were estimated to be earning an average of 12 percent more than if they had not enrolled in the program.

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