The Growth in After-School Programs and Their Impact

Interest in after-school programs has increased dramatically in recent years. Yet little is
known about the effectiveness of these programs and whether they are a good use of taxpayer
dollars. This paper reviews the growth of these programs, the reasons for their growth, and what
they hope to accomplish. It also addresses what we know about what works, the costs of the
programs, and the implications for policy.

This paper was commissioned by the Brookings Roundtable on Children in an effort to
shed more light on these questions. It was written by Rob Hollister, Professor of Economics at
Swarthmore College, with background research by Marc Rockmore (made possible by assistance
from the Smith Richardson Foundation).

The paper concludes that much of the evidence on these programs is sparse and not very
good. However, based on a review of 10 studies that used a relatively rigorous methodology to
measure impact on a variety of outcomes such as drug and alcohol use, academic skills, or
violence, Hollister concludes that there have been some effective programs.

The Roundtable is making this paper more broadly available in the hopes that it will
catalyze further discussion and research on this important topic.