Sara Heller: Predicting and Preventing Gun Violence: An Experimental Evaluation of READI Chicago


Monday, March 29, 2021, 12:15pm to 1:15pm



Sara HellerAssistant Professor of Economics, University of Michigan.

Due to data restrictions, this seminar was not recorded. 

Sara HellerEvery year in the U.S., an estimated 65,000 people are shot or killed by guns, with young Black men 20 times as likely to die from a gun homicide as their white counterparts. Despite the extremely high social cost generated by this kind of violence, only a few interventions have attempted to identify the individuals most likely to be involved in shootings—either as victims or perpetrators—and change their behavior by providing social services rather than law enforcement.

This project is a randomized controlled trial of a new intervention in Chicago for those at the highest risk of gun violence, designed to test a behaviorally-informed, social service-based approach. The Rapid Employment and Development Initiative (READI) uses three different methods of identifying adult men at the highest risk of being involved in a shooting: machine learning prediction based on administrative arrest and victimization records, referrals from street outreach staff who work in the communities served, and screening among those leaving prison and jail. It then provides 18 months of supported, subsidized work alongside cognitive behavioral therapy and personal development programming, with additional social supports available after the program. Over 3 years, a total of 2,546 men were randomly assigned to a treatment group that is offered the program or to a control group that is free to pursue other available services.

The talk will present interim results for the two-thirds of the sample that has completed a 20-month follow-up period, including preliminary estimates of READI's ability to identify elevated risk of future shooting involvement, recruit and retain participants, and reduce serious violence involvement.

About the speaker

Sara Heller is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan. This year she is a Visiting Research Scholar at Princeton University in the Industrial Relations Section.

Dr. Heller studies interventions to reduce crime and improve other life outcomes among disadvantaged youth. She uses large-scale experiments to isolate the causal effects of a variety of programs, including cognitive behavioral therapy-based interventions and summer jobs.

Dr. Heller an NBER Faculty Research Fellow and a University of Michigan Poverty Solutions faculty expert.

She holds a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, a MPP from Georgetown, and a BA in Psychology from Harvard.

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See also: Spring 2021