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Vocational and employment training for court-involved youth

Juvenile Justice
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated July 2019.
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Vocational and employment training includes a combination of vocational skills training, academic education or tutoring, and job search assistance or placement programs. These programs aim to support positive outcomes to reduce recidivism, specifically steady, long-term employment and education attainment. Vocational skills training uses classroom-based job training to teach youth employable skills. As part of some training curriculums, youth can receive certification in a variety of specialties. For programs that focus on job search assistance, youth participate in interview preparation, resume building, or job placement services aided by community volunteers. Commonly, job assistance programs provide total or subsidized wages which offer an additional incentive to employers in the community to work with youth.

The current analysis includes programs that provide services to youth while on probation in the community. Youth in the studies are classified as moderate or high risk per a validated risk assessment tool. In the included studies, participants receive services over three to six months. Of the studies in our analysis that reported demographic information, 55% of participants were youth of color and 14% were female.

Evaluations of Education and Employment Training (EET), mentoring programs, and vocational and employment training programs that occur while youth are in state institutions are excluded from this analysis and analyzed separately.

Key Terms

Court-involved youth: Youth who are processed through the juvenile justice system but who are not ordered to a period of confinement in a residential or correctional facility. This includes populations of arrested youth, diverted youth, charged youth, adjudicated youth, and youth on probation or formal supervision.

Youth in state institutions: Youth who are confined in a residential or correctional facility when they participate in the program.

Youth post-release: Youth who are returning to the community following a period of confinement in a residential or correctional facility and who participate in the program after release to the community.

For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $2,964 Benefits minus costs $7,938
Participants $569 Benefit to cost ratio $4.16
Others $6,832 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $85 benefits greater than the costs 82%
Total benefits $10,451
Net program cost ($2,513)
Benefits minus cost $7,938

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

^^WSIPP does not include this outcome when conducting benefit-cost analysis for this program.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
16 5 703 -0.114 0.085 17 -0.114 0.085 25 -0.114 0.180
16 1 50 -0.382 0.367 18 n/a n/a n/a -0.382 0.299
16 1 50 0.183 0.204 17 n/a n/a n/a 0.183 0.369
16 1 50 0.431 0.208 17 n/a n/a n/a 0.431 0.038
16 1 50 0.077 0.207 17 n/a n/a n/a 0.077 0.709
16 1 50 0.738 0.276 17 n/a n/a n/a 0.738 0.008
16 1 50 0.010 0.203 17 n/a n/a n/a 0.010 0.959
16 1 50 0.034 0.203 17 n/a n/a n/a 0.034 0.866
16 1 50 -0.057 0.203 17 n/a n/a n/a -0.057 0.780
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime Criminal justice system $2,745 $0 $6,494 $1,373 $10,612
Labor market earnings associated with high school graduation $282 $664 $367 $0 $1,313
Costs of higher education ($63) ($95) ($28) ($31) ($217)
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($1,256) ($1,256)
Totals $2,964 $569 $6,832 $85 $10,451
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $2,130 2016 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($2,513)
Comparison costs $0 2016 Cost range (+ or -) 20%
We estimate the per-participant cost of treatment from the cost of Education and Employment Training (EET), a similarly structured vocational and employment training program used in Washington State. We use the weighted average length of treatment of the included studies (4.8 months) and apply the per-month expenditure calculated from the information reported in Miller, M., Fumia, D., & He, L. (2015). The King County Education and Employment Training (EET) Program: Outcome evaluation and benefit-cost analysis. (Doc. No. 15-12-3901). Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Gruenewald, P.J., Laurence, S.E., & West, B.R. (1985). National evaluation of the New Pride replication program, final report - Volume II: Client impact evaluation. Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE).

Quay, H.C., & Love, C.T. (1977). The effect of a juvenile diversion program on rearrests. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 4, 377-396.

Schaeffer, C.M., Henggeler, S.W., Ford, J.D., Mann, M., Chang, R., & Chapman, J.E. (2014). RCT of a promising vocational/employment program for high-risk juvenile offenders. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 46 (2), 134-143.