May 31, 2013


Youth Corps is a full-time paid service work program for young adults out of school. It is designed to promote a strong work ethic, a sense of public service, educational and employment prospects in participants; additionally, it is designed to benefit the communities in which the programs are housed. The program also provides collection of enrichment services, such as academic and life skills training, job search help, GED courses, and contact with outside services. Two large experimental evaluations indicates that participation in Youth Corps led to higher numbers of hours worked and higher levels of working for pay. Mixed results have been found regarding impact on delinquency and substance use rates. Impacts varied greatly by subgroups, with particular race/ethnic groups experiencing more positive improvements than others in social responsibility, voting, educational achievement, reproductive outcomes, employment and earnings.


Target population: Young adults out of school

Youth Corps (YC), initiated in 1990, is a service work program for young adults out of school. It provides participants with temporary, paid service employment to promote a strong work ethic and sense of public service in participants, to enhance participants’ personal development and educational/employment prospects, and to provide long-term benefits to the public. Many of these jobs-such as tutoring, helping with athletic events for physically challenged children, and cleaning city parks-are selected to address specific needs in the community. Though this type of service work is often thought of as “community service” or “volunteer work,” Youth Corps pays participants for their work in them. Participants work, on average, 32 hours per week.

For roughly eight hours per week, Youth Corps members participate in a combination of program-provided development services. These services include job training, help in searching for employment, academic skills training, basic and remedial education, GED courses, and life skills training. Additionally, Youth Corps staff provide case management and match participants with outside resources as needed.

There is no official time commitment for participation in the program, and intensity of participation depends on each participant’s work schedule. The majority of participants are between 18 and 25 years old.

Program Components: As each program site was designed to address needs specific to the communities in which they were housed, certain program components vary. Those summarized below are broad, generally universal components.

Component Provided by Duration Description
Community service Participants 6-12 months; 80 percent of participants’ time Participants work in groups of 8 to 15 on service projects within their community
Stipend Program funding Throughout enrollment Generally equivalent to minimum wage or less
Educational stipends or small cash awards Program funding Not automatic; only offered sometimes at completion of program
Education and developmental activities Program 6-12 months; 20 percent of participants’ time Strategies combine contextually-based hands-on experience and traditional classroom education
Case management Program Throughout enrollment on an as-needed basis For participants who require services from external providers, program personnel coordinate services and incorporate them into the Youth Corps experience

Jastrzab, J., Masker, J., Bloomquist, J. and Orr, L. (1996). Impacts of service: Final report on the evaluation of American Conservation and Youth Corps. Cambridge, Mass.: Abt Associates, Inc.

Evaluated population: A total of 626 youth (383 in the treatment group, 243 in the control group) in one of four well-established year-round YC sites: California Conservation Corps, Santa Clara District; Greater Miami Service Corps; City Volunteer Corps in New York City; and Washington State Service Corps were evaluated. Follow-up data were collected roughly 15 months after random assignment.

Approach: The study was based on four year-round YC programs that received Subtitle C/National and Community Service Act of 1990 funding for the 1993/1994 program year. (Subtitle C funding was given for the creation or expansion of full-time or summer YC programs.) These sites were selected from 100 year-round sites and were considered to be established and mature programs.
An experimental design was used to assess the impact of YC on participants. Forty-one outcome measures in nine categories were used (e.g., civic, social, and personal development; current and planned involvement in other social service; educational aspirations and expectations). Program applicants were randomly assigned to either the treatment group and were allowed to enroll in the program, or to the control group and were excluded from participating in the program for one year. The control group represented what would have happened to the treatment group in the absence of the program. Ideally, participation is meant to be full-time and to last between six and twelve months. However, most participants remained in the program for only four or five months. A follow-up period that covered about 15 months after enrollment occurred in conjunction with a follow-up telephone interview. Results from the assessment are reported for the follow-up period.

Results: The most significant impacts were related to employment and earnings. The treatment group was more likely to have worked for pay and worked more hours (40 percent more than the control group) over the follow-up period. Other results were that program participants were less likely to have been arrested and less likely to have earned a technical certificate or diploma (suggesting that participation in YC may have been a substitute for additional education, in the short run).

The study also looked across subgroups (race, gender) for significant differences between the impacts of program participation and non-program participation. The most significant impacts were on African-American males. Compared with African-American males in the control group, African-American males in the treatment group scored higher on measures of personal and social responsibility, were more likely to have voted in the last election, experienced more employment with higher earnings, were more likely to have earned an associate’s degree, had changed educational outlooks (changed their minds to go to college, instead of not to go to college) and were less likely to report a better relationship with people at work besides their supervisor. At the time of follow-up, 80 percent of the treatment group indicated that they had good relationships with their supervisors, compared to 90 percent of the control group. The authors suggest that this shows that these participants had greater standards for workplace relationships based on the quality relationships that they encountered with their fellow corps members.

There were significant findings for other subgroups, as well. Hispanic males in the treatment group increased their total hours worked since program enrollment and had promotions at work. However, white males had more negative effects. For instance, they were less likely to be employed at the time of follow-up, and had lower monthly earnings and lower scores on the perceived control of work outcome.

African-American females were more likely to have worked for pay during the follow-up period, to have received an award at work and less likely to be married and pregnant at the time of follow-up. Hispanic females were more likely to have worked for pay since enrollment, to have higher educational aspirations and to have received a raise at their current job. White females were more likely to have an associate’s degree and to expect to graduate from a four-year institution.

Price, C., Williams, J,. Simpson, L., Jastrzab., and Markovitz, C. (2011). National Evaluation of Youth Corps: Findings at Follow Up. Prepared for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates Inc.

Evaluated Population: The sample population was drawn from fifty nine Youth Corps programs from across the nation in 2005. Some characteristics of this sample included: half male; majority under twenty four years old; ethnically distributed between African Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians; twenty five percent below the federal poverty line; half did not have a high school diploma.

Approach: Random assignment was conducted as participants entered the YC program. Those in the control group were deferred from enrolling in any YC program for 18 months. Four main categories of outcomes were measured with yes/no questions: educational outcomes, employment and earnings outcomes, civic engagements and life skills outcomes, and risky behavior outcomes. Phone surveys were given at 18 months and then briefly at 30 months. Of the original 1,357 participants assigned to the treatment group, 893 participated in the program and completed the 18-month follow-up. Of the assigned 686 members of the control group, 488 completed the 18-month follow-up.

Results: There were no significant impacts found of the YC programs on the probability that the participants were employed or in school, the participants’ educational attainment, or the participants’ volunteer frequency. However, YC programs did significantly impact increased educational expectations of the participants. YC program participants who were employed were found to have had significantly fewer employers over the 18 month period, had significantly higher hourly wages, higher annual wages, and felt more capable of making ends meet than the control group members. YC participation was not found to impact levels of arrest or conviction; however, YC participants did report using less illegal drugs than control group members.


Jastrzab, J., Masker, J., Bloomquist, J. and Orr, L. (1996). Impacts of service: Final report on the evaluation of American Conservation and Youth Corps. Cambridge, Mass.: Abt Associates, Inc.

Price, C., Williams, J,. Simpson, L., Jastrzab., and Markovitz, C. (2011). National Evaluation of Youth Corps: Findings at Follow Up. Prepared for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates Inc.

KEYWORDS: Service Learning, Life Skills Training, Education, Social Responsibility, Academic Achievement, Skills Training, Vocational Learning, Young Adulthood, (18-24), Males and Females, Academic Motivation/Self-Concept/Expectations/Engagement, Social/Emotional Health and Development, African American or Black, Hispanic or Latino, White or Caucasian, Community-Based, Case Management, College Enrollment/Preparation, High School Completion/Dropout,  Employment/Earnings, Community Service, Marijuana/Illicit/Prescription Drugs, Delinquency, Political Involvement, Births, Family Structure/Marriage.

Program information last updated 5/31/13