Can Employment Opportunities Reduce Youth Gang Violence?

schiffla Blog Posts, HBHE 680 76 Comments

As a young adult, whenever I see a news article or a new study surface about youth gang violence, I always become curious about the factors that influence a youth’s involvement in this area of violence. I think this curiosity arises from the fact that I have never directly been exposed to gang violence. However, it’s apparent that youth gang violence is a safety concern nationally. The main question being, how can youth involvement in gang violence most effectively be addressed?

During the week of February 24, 2013, a group of community organizers, in the San Francisco Mission District, came together to discuss strategies to end gang violence among the district’s youth. The community members involved are part of a coalition called the Mission Peace Collaborative, and the meeting’s primary focus was to come up with a policy proposal to get youth ‘off the streets’ through employment opportunities. The idea is that youth-centered employment activities decreases this group’s likelihood of being on the streets and engaged in gang-related violence and criminal behavior (Hernandez, 2013).

Indeed, providing employment opportunities to youth at-risk of becoming involved in gang violence has been shown to decrease gang-related criminal activity among participants of a violence reduction program, in Chicago, called the Gang Violence Reduction Program (Spergel, n.d.).  This positive approach to preventing youth gang violence seems promising in that employment opportunities can provide these at-risk youth with professional skills, a sense of responsibility, and financial incentive.

Providing resources to at-risk youth seems to be a promising strategy. The work of the Mission Peace Collaborative is a good example of how community members can collaborate cohesively to address youth violence through policy change. To find out more about this community’s work, go to for additional information.


R. Hernandez. (2013, March 4). Organizers want jobs for youth to curb gang violence. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Spergel, I. A. (n.d.). Gang Violence Reduction Program. Retrieved from


Comments 76

  1. This is an unique topic that is often never thought about. Most of the young men and women who join gangs face the challenge of finding employment hence their readiness to be in a gang to earn money. Growing up, I know that this reason only is why some of my friends were in a gang (besides the protection gangs provide) because they could not find a job to help provide for themselves and their families. A question that I have is rather this can be employed in every city and what type of jobs will be available to the youth to keep them from joining a gang?

  2. Getting the youth involved in working in their community is a very innovative approach to decreasing gang violence. I think the reason it works so well is because often times having that kind of responsibility and being involved in something outside of family life gives kids some diversion and some sense of entitlement. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how far this will go as the US in general is struggling to find jobs for so how likely will it be that these young kids will have opportunities.

  3. I am currently working in social services with families who are struggling to stay together. One of our clients in an ex-gang member in the greater Los Angeles, California area. My specific agencies job is to provide our client with community resources that will aid them in surviving pro-socially. During our conversation with our client it became apparent that he has had little to no work experience. As we pushed further it was discovered that our client had only worked a total of two to three months in his life and he is now in his mid thirties.

    In my personal opinion there are many factors that cause youth to get involved with gangs. I am most in favor of the fact that gang life is what has been modeled for a majority of them as they grow up. I believe that offering youth an alternative choice will broaden their life perspective allowing for them to experience the world pro-socially for maybe the first time in their life. I am not surprised that the findings have resulted in reduced gang participation.

    I am curious though, if that is a trend that will carry months down the road with the same subjects. In my experience with juveniles it seems as if holding a job long term is difficult for them. Personally, I believe that finding employment makes juveniles work longer hours and pay that is not great (typically minimum wage). When they are participating in gang activities they have opportunities to turn great profit in a matter of minutes.

    This specific topic of study fascinates me. I believe there are so many variable to be explored within this topic. I believe with the proper testing and data collected over the year employment programs may save the lives of many juveniles in the United States.

  4. This article does a great job in providing awareness about alternative approaches to dealing with gangs. The traditional methods of simply throwing gangbangers in jail or prison proves ineffective as many will come out within a few years, worse than when they went in. The best way to deal with gangs is definitely a proactive approach. If efforts are made to provide at-risk youth with the skills and resources they need to succeed, then gang numbers should decrease. Similar to how after-school programs are believed to keep youth busy and out of gangs, I believe that having a job would do the same. In the end, this is a win-win solution for both the individual and society as both benefit from the job.

  5. Research has demonstrated numerous times that after school activities are positive for youth development across the board. Providing employment as a form of after school activity is dually beneficial as it provides not only healthy activity and encourages a sense of mastery, but also provides a source of income for youth whose families may already be struggling.

    Providing employment to at risk youth also increases their chances later in life for finding and keeping a job and furthering their education. This type of program appears sustainable and has the potential for far reaching effects in the community. If more public health programs focused upon structural factors like economic development, sustainability would be easier reached.

  6. Employment opportunities are a great way to keep some youths out of gangs. I think the idea of having something to do after school or on the weekends for youths will deter kids from joining gangs. In addition, I think anything that keeps them occupied will have the same affect. With employment opportunities however, there most likely to have a higher success rate for older teenagers who want to work. As far as younger children are concerned, I feel the best opportunities to get them away from gangs is to get them involved in after school sports. Directing a child into something they could be passionate about and want to do every waking moment could be most effective.

  7. Getting anyone involved in the community is a great way to empower the importance of community. This is especially important for the youth because they can become part of the environment in which they live. Youth involvement in their community can also open many doors to other possible community engagement. The collaboration of all community members can provide the foundation for many future opportunities in a youth’s future career. The youth involved in gang related violence can have the opportunity to get involved and can pose itself as a beginning towards change.

  8. Gang violecnce reduction programs are great for children at risk of joining a gang. Often times kids will join a gang because they don’t have a strong bond to anyone else in their life and they feel like they will have a family in a gang. Getting them into the work force can give them a more stable group of friends to think of as their family. It’s just important to offer them something that really sparks their interest. If they don’t like they job they’re doing then they are likely to quit and go back to joining a gang.

  9. I completely agree with this post. Having a job gives less well of teens something to do and work for. It takes away free-time, allowing for less time out on the streets where they can get “bored” and maybe cause trouble. Jobs allow people to work for something, feel the satisfaction of working hard, and also getting paid while doing it. I think if unemployment was not so high, and it was easier of teens to get jobs, then crimes, and gang violence would go down significantly. I know when I had a job I looked forward to working and getting money in my pocket. I loved getting extra hours and working towards something. I believe this kept me from getting into trouble with friends, and maybe even stopping me from getting into drugs or criminal acts. I think if teens had a better access to employment youth related violence would decrease.

  10. I strongly agree with this article, job opportunities can decrease the amount of gang association with teens. The busier they are the less likely they are going to have time to commit crimes. If they start working at a clothing store and do not make their goal in sales because people steal and they lose hours, it can reflect in their way of thinking. Next time their “bad” influence friends want to steal, they will reflect on their own loss when they are working hard for their money to buy the things they want. The more they are involved the more they will be around people with positive regard and influence with the same goals. Youth employment can most definitely help decrease youth violence.

  11. I think this is an excellent idea in theory. It should help with gang violence but that depends on the person who hires these people. Most people who join gangs are minorities who have financial difficulty. If these jobs are available is it a work ethic that keeps them going or the financial support? I can see how this would be appealing but in today’s age I find that people want things quick and easy and if someone offers someone 1000 dollars to do something than minimum wage then this may not work.

  12. This is an excellent idea. The more you keep youths busy, especially those who are exposed to gangs, they have less chance and less reasons to join gangs or become deviant. This one is a great idea, because jobs do provide skills for the future, as well as references and money to help yourself get what you want. The less kids are on the street, the less chance they have to join gangs. This can also be said for sports and after school clubs and activities. But jobs in particular give youth the incentive to work harder, get a better job and be for financially stable/successful.

  13. I believe that it is very beneficial to offer youths employment opportunities for the reason that it does help in lowering gang violence. Having a job will give youths an outlet to fill some of the free time that they have. This is time that is spent not engaging in criminal or delinquent acts. Furthermore, it gives youths a sense of purpose and emphasizes a sense of belonging to society. Having a job means a person is invested in the normal workings of society and thus as result, they will less likely want to risk that connection by committing criminal acts.

  14. I’m all for youth employment programs made especially for these kinds of at-risk youths. These kinds of teenagers living on the streets and in gangs need a role model to look up to. I think youth employment programs that have job counselors and personal counselors to mentor these at-risk youths before and when they go into the field of employment is warranted.

  15. Indeed those programs are promising to help reduce the violence among youth. But the big concern would be what happens when their shift ends. One can only have them work for so long and monitor them. Once out in the streets is back to reality. Parents should definitely from part of this process just like in the after school programs here in my local neighborhood. Those programs are run by the local police officers and give the kids the mentoring and role model figure often missing in their lives. They also work closely with the local schools to figure out who are those kids that need help.

  16. Providing youth with employment opportunities is truly one way to keep them from being involved in gang violence. Youth are reared toward gang violence, because they are tempted to steal in order to get what they want. Other times they are bored, and decided to be involved in violence. Youth need to be more involved, and have opportunities to learn responsibility. Letting them roam the streets is what increases youth participation in gang violence. It is truly a great opportunity that this program is providing the youth, and in turn, helping the community.

  17. Gang members are negatively impacting the quality of life for families already struggling with poverty, low education and issues of cities. Gangs are growing in influence among younger children whom they are now targeting for membership. Employment opportunities or even programs targeting youth and younger ages at risk to be potentially targeted to gang influence could be quite beneficial. Being able to occupy and make an impact through brighter futures and keeping them not exposed to such a criminal lifestyle. Parents, school officials, and even members of law enforcement need to help come together as a community to help steer the children into a safer and healthy successful lifestyle.

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  38. What a nice article. Yes the youth do get vulnerable in situations where they have no other means to provide for themselves and their loved ones and eventually they get involved in illegal ways to get financial comfort. We at Kenyan Youth Board impact the youth to hold the highest standard of ethics and professionalism by offering effective capacity building programs which will help solve social, religious and economic exploitation among the youth and in the end we do offer industrial attachment and job opportunities to them by creating a database of available job opportunities in Kenya and all over the world, Feel free to visit our website or email us on to learn more about what the Kenyan Youth Board does to help the youth.

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