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Federal youth job program that worked

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Low-income youths given work through a federal jobs program continued to make improvement in earnings and employment even after the program was finished, says a report from the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC).

The study looks at the $240 million Youth Incentive Entitlement Pilot Projects, run from 1978 through 1980, and follows the progress of participants for 15 months after they finish the program.

Employment among minority youth in the program increased, and, in fact, the gap between white and black youth employment was nearly eliminated in the case of males and was reversed among females.

At a time when the United States is facing heavy unemployment among minorities, the successful model program could offer some hope, says Judith M. Gueron, executive vice-president of research at MDRC.

''It's become almost chic to say we can't do anything (about high unemployment among poor minorities),'' says Dr. Gueron, or that the federal government could run such a program. The results of the study also point out that minority youths came forward for work at the same rate as whites.

The study of the jobs-creation package is significant as Congress considers similar proposals in hearings this week. Supporters hope the research will bolster chances for a national program. The Reagan administration has not taken a stand on it, and few expect its support. The legislation could cost up to $2 billion.

''Everyone agrees (the pilot project) is a good model,'' says one congressional source. ''But the basic issue is money.'' The Reagan administration supports a youth subminimum-wage proposal for summer work.

Under the Youth Entitlement Project, any interested person 15 to 19 years old was guaranteed a job. He or she had to continue in school, maintaining a certain attendance and performance standard.

Some 76,000 youths found work throughout the 17 project sites. About 56 percent of the youths eligible in each area got a program job. Participation among blacks was even higher, at 63 percent. The average length of work experience was 56 weeks. Cost of keeping a participant in the program for a year was $4,382.

The postprogram follow-up shows that youths still in jobs continued an increase in earnings above a comparable group of youth not in the project.

One disappointment in the project was the inability to bring dropouts back to school. MDRC is beginning a new demonstration program aimed specifically at the 1 million students who drop out of US schools each year.

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