Jon Guryan Studies How to Prevent Juvenile Delinquency

Jon Guryan Studies How to Prevent Juvenile Delinquency

Jon Guryan

Associate professor Jonathan Guryan is exploring the underlying problems behind youth delinquency and violence. His current study of delinquency has found that training in cognitive behavioral therapy helps to prevent repeat offenses.

Each year between 300,000 and 600,000 youth spend time in juvenile detention facilities around the country, with a disproportionate number being low-income and minority youth. Previous research shows that variation in noncognitive skills such as self-regulation, self-control, social information processing and moral reasoning might explain involvement with delinquency.

An economist, Guryan is working with Sara Heller and Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago on a research initiative to stem juvenile delinquency. Using a randomized experimental design and with support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, the researchers have collected data on all of the approximately 4,000 male juveniles entering the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center over 14 months. Most are Latino or African American.

These youth were randomly assigned to either a typical residential center or one providing a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention to promote improved decision making. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a goal-oriented technique that focuses on helping people to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior.

The researchers have found that the cognitive behavioral therapy intervention reduces by about 10 to 15 percent the likelihood that a detained youth returns to the detention center within a year. 

Currently the researchers are extending this study to explore the program’s effectiveness more fully. They are working to obtain more follow-up data on arrests and educational outcomes.

Much of Guryan’s research falls into two main categories: understanding the sources and consequences of racial inequality and the economics of education. He is a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern, a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a research consultant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Guryan is also a co-director of the Urban Education Lab, which has the goal of generating knowledge that can lead to improved educational outcomes for disadvantaged children. 

By Institute for Policy Research
Last Modified: 10/1/13