Can Mentoring Alleviate Family Disadvantage in Adolescence? A Field Experiment to Improve Labor-Market Prospects
We study a mentoring program that aims to improve the labor-market prospects of school-attending adolescents from disadvantaged families by offering them a university-student mentor. Our RCT investigates program effectiveness on three outcome dimensions that are highly predictive of later labor-market success: math grades, patience/social skills, and labor-market orientation. For low-SES adolescents, the mentoring increases a combined index of the outcomes by over half a standard deviation after one year, with significant increases in each dimension. Part of the treatment effect is mediated by establishing mentors as attachment figures who provide guidance for the future. Effects on grades and labor-market orientation, but not on patience/social skills, persist three years after program start. By that time, the mentoring also improves early realizations of school-to-work transitions for low-SES adolescents. The mentoring is not effective for higher-SES adolescents. The results show that substituting lacking family support by other adults can help disadvantaged children at adolescent age.