This report describes the four-year results from the National YouthBuild Evaluation. YouthBuild is a nonresidential, community-based alternative education program for 16- to 24-year-olds 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.

Conducted in May 2018 and as noted in the Executive Summary, this impact evaluation examines YouthBuild’s effects on the young people it serves, assessing effects on a wide range of outcomes, including education and training, work and earnings, youth development, and involvement in the criminal justice system.

YouthBuild is a program that attempts to improve prospects for less-educated young people, serving over 10,000 individuals each year at over 250 organizations nationwide. Each organization provides hands-on, construction-related or other vocational training, educational services, case management, counseling, service to the community, and leadership development opportunities, to low-income young people ages 16 to 24 who did not complete high school.YouthBuild was evaluated using a randomized controlled trial, in which eligible young people at participating programs were assigned to either a program group, invited to enroll in YouthBuild, or a control group, referred to other services in the community.

The evaluation included 75 programs across the country and nearly 4,000 young people who enrolled in the study between 2011 and 2013. 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, the final in the evaluation, presents the program’s effects on young people after four years.

Major Findings & Recommendations

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

  1. Youth Build increased the receipt of high school equivalency credentials by 14 percentage points.
  2. YouthBuild increased enrollment in college by almost 9 percentage points, largely during the first two years. The 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 of those enrolled in the study had not even complete 10th grade when they enrolled in the study.
  3. 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 th evaluation period.
  4. YouthBuild increased civic engagement, largely via participation in Youth Build services.
  5. YouthBuild had few effects on involvement with the criminal justice system.