Cost-Benefit Evaluation for Service Learning Program

Nia Harrison, Nikola Juris, Dori Stern, and Steven Stern

 

 

            Service Learning is a program by which young people develop through volunteering in organized service experiences. It consists of three components: training, service, and reflection. In Charlottesville City Schools, Service Learning works in conjunction with Community Attention through its Teens GIVE program (Service Learning, 2008). Using evaluations of this program by Uggen and Janikula (1999) as well as information in Maynard (1996) and Strategic Planning Work Group (1999), we estimated the net benefits of the program. These evaluations are shown below in Table 1. Furthermore, the assumptions we made in the initial calculations were then altered to determine the sensitivity of our analysis and are shown in Table 2.[1]                   

 

Table 1

 

 

Boys

Girls

Effect on probability of pregnancy before age 18

0.000

0.056

Effect on probability of arrest before age 18

0.080

0.019

Effect on probability of graduating high school

0.050

0.050

Probability (Conviction|Crime)

0.09

0.09

Average high school wage per hour

$15.00

$13.50

Annual earnings

$30,000.00

$27,000.00

Cost

$450

$450

Annual benefit of no pregnancy

$0

$3,700

Annual benefit of no jail

$41,080

$40,228

Benefit of no crime

$3,027

$725

Other potential benefits

$690

$621

Discount factor

0.900

0.900

Long term benefit of no pregnancy

$0

$2,072

Long term benefit of no jail

$32,864

$7,706

Long term benefit of other potential benefits

$6,900

$6,210

Net benefit

$42,341

$16,262

 

Uggen and Janikula (1999) estimate that the Service Learning Program reduces the probability of arrest before age 18 by 8.0% (1.9%) for boys (girls). Strategic Planning Work Group (1999) found the annual benefit of no pregnancy to be $3,700 in the case of girls and left made no estimate for boys.[2]  In order to make further progress, we made several assumptions. We assumed that Service Learning reduces the probability of pregnancy before age 18 by 5.6% and that there is no effect on the probability of pregnancy in the case of boys.[3]  Furthermore, we assumed that the probability of both boys and girls graduating high school increases by 5%.[4]  We assumed that an average male (female) high school graduate earns $15.00 ($13.50) per hour. Assuming one works 2000 hours per year, we have base annual earnings of $30,000 ($27,000) for males (females).  Therefore, the increased probability of graduating from high school leads to a direct benefit of $690 ($621) for males (females).

Next, we assumed that the cost to the victim of a crime is $3,330. The probability of conviction given that one has committed a crime is estimated at 8.8%,[5] implying an annual benefit to victims of reduced crime by males (females) of $3,027 ($725).  The annual cost of putting someone in jail and the reduction in their earnings once out of jail is $41,080 ($40,228) for males (females).[6]  Finally, the cost of the program is $450 per child.[7]  In this base scenario, we assume costs are incurred for only one year.

 

Table 2

 

Assumption

Net Benefit of the Program

Average high school wage per hour

Boys

$15.00

$42,341

 

 

$30.00

$56,057

 

Girls

$13.50

$16,262

 

 

$27.00

$23,941

Benefit of no crime

Boys

$3,027

$42,341

 

 

$1,514

$40,828

 

Girls

$725

$16,262

 

 

$362

$15,900

Discount factor

Boys

0.900

$42,341

 

 

0.800

$22,459

 

Girls

0.900

$16,262

 

 

0.800

$8,269

Effect on probability of graduating HS

Boys

0.050

$42,341

 

 

0.000

$35,441

 

 

0.100

$49,241

 

Girls

0.050

$15,552

 

 

0.000

$10,052

 

 

0.100

$22,472

Depreciating benefits

Boys

Base 1/(1-β)

$42,341

 

 

1.220

$7,630

 

Girls

Base 1/(1-β)

$16,262

 

 

1.220

$2,306

Cost of the program

Boys

$450

$42,341

 

 

$1,548

$41,244

 

Girls

$450

$16,262

 

 

$1,548

$15,165

 

In order to translate these calculations into long-term benefits, we assumed that the annual discount factor was 0.9. The long term benefit of no pregnancy was obtained by multiplying the reduced probability of pregnancy before age 18 by the annual benefit of no pregnancy, and then adding up the discounted lifetime benefits. Similar calculations are made for all of the benefits expect the reduction in cost to crime victims; this is a one-time cost.  Adding up all the long term benefits and then subtracting the cost of the program, we are left with a net benefit of the program for boys (girls) of $42,341 ($16,262).  The major source of the benefit is the effect on reduced criminal behavior.

 

In Table 2, we changed various assumptions we had made for the base case, one at a time while holding the others constant, in order to measure the sensitivity of the base case analysis. First, changing the hourly wage received by a high school graduate to double the base assumption yields a new net benefit of $56,057 ($23,941) for boys (girls). If we reduce the cost of crime to victims by half, the new net benefits are $40,828 ($15,900) for boys (girls). Next, changing the discount factor from 0.9 to 0.8 resulted in a new net benefit of $22,459 ($8,269) for boys (girls). Finally, we considered altering the program’s effect on the probability of graduating high school. Doubling our base assumption to 10% gives a net benefit of $49,241 ($22,472) for boys (girls), while assuming that the program has no effect on graduation probabilities yields net benefits for boys (girls) of $35,441 ($10,052).

 

There was some concern that the benefits of the program would dissipate over time. To measure the impact of this concern, we considered the possibility that benefits would depreciate by 80% per year during teen years. We assumed that the average age of participation in Service Learning is 15, implying 3 years of depreciation. This leads to a multiplier of 1.271, as seen in Table 2, while the base case multiplier was 10. This reduction in the multiplier causes net benefits to decrease to $7,630 ($2,306) for boys (girls).

 

            One way to deal with the concern of benefit dissipation is to consider the possibility that the participant would continue with the program every year until he/she is 18 years old, thus not allowing for the depreciation of benefits. This leads to an extra cost of program participation, resulting in a new cost of $1,548 for both boys and girls, and a new net benefit of the program of $41,244 ($15,165) for boys (girls). An examination of the net benefits of the program in all the sensitivity analyses indicates that Service Learning can lead to large benefits.  The source of large gains are the long-term benefits of reduced criminal activity.

           

References

 

Harrison, Nia, Nikola Juris, Dori Stern, and Steven Stern (2008). “Methodology for Youth Development Cost-Benefit Analyses.”  http://www.people.virginia.edu/~sns5r/ccfstf/youthdevmethodology.pdf.

Maynard, R. A. (1996).  “The Costs of Adolescent Childbearing,” In R. A. Maynard (eds). Kids Having Kids: A Robin Hood Foundation Special Report on the Costs of Adolescent Childbearing.  Urban Institute, Washington, D.C.

Service Learning/ Teens GIVE Program (2008). Charlottesville City Schools. http://www.ccs.k12.va.us/programs/give.html.

Strategic Planning Work Group of the Task Force on Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia (1999). A Community Strategic Plan for Preventing Teen Pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. http://people.virginia.edu/~sns5r/teenpregstf/strpln.pdf.

Uggen, C. and J. Janikula (1999). "Volunteerism and Arrest in the Transition to Adulthood." Social Forces. 78(1): 331-362.



[1] Details of Methodology are available at Harrison, Juris, Stern, and Stern (2008).

[2] These estimates relied heavily on estimates in Maynard (1996).  Maynard finds that the effects of pregnancy for boys are statistically insignificant.

[3] Estimates from Strategic Planning Work Group (1999).

[4] Estimates from Strategic Planning Work Group (1999).

[7] Based on numbers from Teens Give.