Measuring What Works The Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities

Ashley was on her way to becoming a statistic in the juvenile justice system. Her father was working extra hours after her mother lost her job and began acting strangely. Hurt and confused, she began cutting herself. She fell in with friends who convinced her to join them in shoplifting. She got busted.

She knew she needed to change direction. “But I didn’t know how to start,” she later wrote in a reflection. “I didn’t have friends or my family to talk through any of the ideas that were eating me up inside.”

日本一本道最新高清无码Then Ashley found “a caring mentor, a good book, a new life.” That’s the motto for Reading for Life, an unusually successful diversion program working to keep first-time juvenile offenders from returning to the justice system in South Bend, Indiana.

In one particular book, Ashley found a character in a situation similar to her own. The power of story and the support of a mentor helped her realize she could take control of her life. Since then, she got her father to acknowledge her mother’s mental health problems, stopped cutting herself and enrolled as a full-time college student.

日本一本道最新高清无码Laura Baker, executive director for , said anecdotes like Ashley’s helped her team know the program was making a difference. But her numbers — showing that the program had a 97 percent success rate — were so good that people found them hard to believe. In contrast, 27 percent of the control group, which did only community service, returned to the justice system within a year.

“There was some skepticism from those in the justice system,” Baker said.

A research center in the economics department, LEO aims to identify innovative, effective and scalable programs that help people move out of poverty…

That’s where the at the University of Notre Dame could help. A research center in the economics department, LEO aims to identify innovative, effective and scalable programs that help people move out of poverty, working directly with Catholic Charities and other nonprofit organizations.

LEO research, conducted by co-founder Bill Evans, Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Economics, evaluated the effect of Reading for Life through a Randomized Controlled Trial experiment and confirmed its success was statistically valid. That intense scrutiny and stamp of approval was enough for the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers to include the program as one of two nationwide examples in its report, “Economic Costs of Youth Disadvantage and High-Return Opportunities for Change.”

日本一本道最新高清无码Several members of the LEO team spoke Friday at a panel in Boston titled, “Combining Research and Practice to Serve the Poor,” a part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series. The weekend culminated with Saturday’s football game against Boston College at Fenway Park, but it also included events meant to bring the Notre Dame experience on the road, including academic presentations, service projects, concerts and Masses.

日本一本道最新高清无码Shamrock Series Panel (photo provided by Elisabeth O’Toole)

日本一本道最新高清无码“The purpose of the panel was to focus on research with a purpose, where economists are looking at programs to find what is really working,” Evans said. “When people think of economics, they think of macro topics like interest rates. This was an intro to how research can have a direct impact on people’s lives.”

日本一本道最新高清无码Besides LEO, other Notre Dame economists described their research abroad, such as evaluating programs to help business owners in Kenya and improve micro-lending in Uganda.

The panel’s moderator, Mary Ann Bates, is deputy director of the at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. JPAL, highly regarded in this field of economic analysis, has been evaluating the effectiveness of nonprofit service providers since 2003.

"I think there are a number of important connection points between what JPAL does and what you'll hear today," Bates said at the start. "Both are deeply rooted in the field of economics and use rigorous research to improve the lives of people around the world."

日本一本道最新高清无码LEO, founded in 2012 by Evans and colleague James Sullivan, the Rev. Thomas J. McDonagh, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Economics, aims to evaluate the impact of domestic anti-poverty programs, improve services by determining what truly works, and inform national policy by spreading its evidence-based research. Among the current areas of focus are early childhood development, community college persistence, job readiness, juvenile justice diversion and homelessness prevention.

日本一本道最新高清无码Notre Dame has the unique advantage of partnering with Catholic Charities, one of the nation’s largest private providers of services to the poor.

Panelist Heather Reynolds, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth in Texas, said LEO is helping the service provider evaluate its strategy of intensive case management to move people out of poverty and improve community college graduation rates.

If we really want to win the war on poverty, we need to try new ways,” she said. “What the service sector is missing is R&D (research and development), but LEO allows nonprofits access to this expertise.”

日本一本道最新高清无码If we really want to win the war on poverty, we need to try new ways,” she said. “What the service sector is missing is R&D (research and development), but LEO allows nonprofits access to this expertise.”

Two female students working at a table
Five students moving dirt

日本一本道最新高清无码The value of LEO’s research certainly bolstered the case for Reading for Life. The study found that program graduates were far less likely to re-offend, with a 36 percent reduction compared to the control group. Baker said LEO also dug into the data to determine that the biggest impact was on the hardest group to reach: males between 16 and 18 from low socio-economic backgrounds.

“For us as a team, it was ‘Thank you, that’s what we thought,’” Baker said. “Externally, it verified us to others.”

日本一本道最新高清无码The report also quantified the numbers to determine whether the program was worth the expense. It found that a 51 percent reduction in prosecutable offenses translated to a savings of more than $412,000 to society, or more than three times the marginal cost of the program.

“The information and data that LEO gives us is huge as a weapon or a sales pitch,” Baker said, “and continues to build the reputation of Reading for Life as a way to fight recidivism and delinquency.”