abstract image

Youth Build Evaluation

Release Date

Nov 13, 2018

Publication Author(s)

  • MDRC
  • Andrew Wiegand
  • Cynthia Miller
  • Danielle Cummings
  • David Long
  • Megan Millenky

Research Methodology

  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • RCT (Randomized Control Trial)


  • Disconnected Youth
  • Youth

States & Territories

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin


Laying a Foundation: Four-Year Results from the National YouthBuild Evaluation

YouthBuild is a program for 16- to 24-year olds who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of failing to reach key educational milestones, and face additional barriers to success. Those barriers include involvement with the juvenile or adult justice and/or foster care systems, having a disability, having an incarcerated parent, being low-income, or being a member of a migrant family. The program is a nonresidential, community-based alternative education program that provides a mix of academics, vocational training, leadership development, community service, and other activities to young people facing an array of challenges to educational and employment success. Seventy-five programs awarded YouthBuild funding in 2011 participated in the evaluation. Of those, 58 were funded by the Department of Labor and 17 were funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Nearly 4,000 youth recruited to these programs between 2011 and early 2013 participated in the evaluation. Those randomly assigned to the program group were engaged in program activities for 6 to 12 months. Those randomly assigned to the control group could not participate in YouthBuild for a period of two years.

This report presents key findings four years after random assignment into the study:

  • YouthBuild increased the receipt of high school equivalency credentials by 14 percentage points.
  • YouthBuild increased enrollment in college by almost 9 percentage points, largely during the first two years. Effects on college enrollment were larger at programs with strong postsecondary education services. The program had a very small effect on degree receipt, however, almost 30 percent of those enrolled in the study had not even completed 10th grade when they enrolled in the study.
  • YouthBuild increased self-reported employment rates, wages and earnings, but did not increase employment as measured with administrative records. This discrepancy could be because some self-employment, informal or intermittent work is not included in administrative data. In addition, most program graduates were placed in construction jobs and finding construction-related employment was challenging following the Great Recession, which overlapped the evaluation period.
  • YouthBuild increased civic engagement, largely via participation in YouthBuild services. It had few effects on other measures of positive youth development.
  • YouthBuild had few effects on involvement with the criminal justice system.

Affiliation: MDRC and Social Policy Research Associates

Authors: Cynthia Miller, Danielle Cummings, Megan Millenky, Andrew Wiegand, David Long

Key Words: YouthBuild, youth, disconnected youth, second-chance program, educational services, vocational services, employment, credentials, postsecondary education, leadership opportunities, case management, job training skills, construction training, youth development, civic engagement

Final Report