Will Biden's Summer Jobs Proposal Impact Violent Crime?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Among President Joe Biden’s proposals to reduce violent crime introduced during his rambling speech on Wednesday, he mostly focused on gun stores. However, he also talked about something quite different. He talked about a summer jobs program.

Now, there’s often a link between employment and crime. Most criminals aren’t holding day jobs, after all, and we know at least some people turn to crime when they can’t get a decent job.

Will a summer jobs program really make much of an impact? The White House sure thinks so.

Part of President Joe Biden’s plan to reduce violent crime nationwide is investing in summer jobs for young people.

Biden noted that violent crime usually spikes in the summertime, and with schools closed, for teenagers “who are in tough neighborhoods,” no jobs means more trouble.

“We know summer job training — summer jobs, training, and recreation for young people work. They help make sure young people pick up a paycheck instead of a pistol. One study found a Boston summer jobs program for youth reduction reduced violent crimes by 35 percent in Boston,” he said.

“Another study found that a program that offers high school students in Chicago a good summer job and an adult mentor and behavioral therapy led to a 45 percent drop in violence,” the president said.

Of course, as it was a speech, Biden didn’t exactly provide sources for those claims and I haven’t been able to find the studies myself so I can see the methodology, but let’s take a moment and discuss this plan under the assumption that a summer job program will do what the president claims.

First, if violent crime dropped 45 percent in Chicago, I’d sure as hell hate to see what violent crime would look like there without their program.

Anyway, summer jobs.

Now, this is probably the least obtrusive proposal the president trotted out on Wednesday, and it may do some good, but the important thing to remember is that summer jobs are, by definition, temporary. I suspect these studies only examined the drop in violent crime during the summer. Granted, the summer is the worst time for crime of any kind, but especially violent crimes, but we’re not looking at a regular criminal cycle. Even if these percentages are annual drops, this is for years where violent crime subsided in the fall. That ain’t happening here.

The violence surge started last spring, just before the summer kicked off. Yes, it went through the summer, but then it continued on through the fall, winter, and this spring.

A summer job program, however, doesn’t cover the rest of the year. With our current surge in violence, it sounds more like a bandaid rather than a cure, and we need more than a bandaid.

To continue the medical metaphor, we’re looking at Ebola here. That’s not a bandaid problem.

Biden’s problem is that he’s seeing this problem through the lens of the past. This isn’t the 1980s or 90s. This is now, and our issues stem from a whole lot of bad decisions that his party made. Granted, they blame the other side for those issues, so it’s politics as usual for everyone, it seems, but the problems are real and they need to be dealt with.

A summer job program might provide some short-term relief, but what happens when all those folks are back on the streets come fall? Are they suddenly going to be filled with renewed purpose, or are they going to go right back to doing what they did last fall, which involved a fair bit of violent crime?

The truth is, trying to get more people working is probably a good, positive move that’s good for the nation even if it doesn’t impact violent crime. The problem is that you can’t just put a select group to work for a short period of time and then expect it to be a permanent solution. You’ve got to do more.

I don’t think Biden has any interest in that, though.

Jul 31, 2021 8:30 AM ET