Sara Heller

Assistant Professor

sbheller (at) umich "dot" edu

University of Michigan

Department of Economics

611 Tappan Street, Lorch Hall Room 238

Ann Arbor MI 48109

Main Office: 734.764.2355

Fax: 734.764.2769


Dr. Heller studies interventions to reduce crime and improve other life outcomes among young people. She uses large-scale experiments to isolate the causal effects of a variety of programs, including cognitive behavioral therapy-based interventions and summer jobs.

She holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, a M.P.P. from Georgetown, and a B.A. in Psychology from Harvard.


Information Frictions and Skill Signaling in the Youth Labor Market (accepted)

Previous version circulated as "The Effects of Letters of Recommendation in the Youth Labor Market"

Sara B. Heller & Judd B. Kessler

Accepted, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

Formerly NBER Working Paper 29579 (posted 2021) NBER link

Ungated and updated version (updated March 2023)          PDF

Predicting and Preventing Gun Violence: An Experimental Evaluation of READI Chicago (2024)

Monica P. Bhatt, Sara B. Heller, Max Kapustin, Marianne Bertrand & Christopher Blattman

Quarterly Journal of Economics, 139(1): 1-56  QJE link

* Editor's Choice

Formerly NBER Working Paper 30852 (posted 2023) NBER link

Ungated version PDF

Related podcast:   Probable Causation

When Scale and Replication Work: Learning from Summer Youth Employment Experiments (2022)

Sara B. Heller

Journal of Public Economics, 209 JPubE link

Accepted version      PDF

Formerly NBER Working Paper 28705 NBER link    

Policy Brief Replication Code (code only, no data are available for replication)

Does Administrative Burden Deter Young People? Evidence from Summer Jobs Programs (2022)

Syon Bhanot & Sara B. Heller

Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, 5(1)  JBPA link 

Soft Skills in the Youth Labor Market (2022)

Sara B. Heller & Judd B. Kessler

American Economic Association: Papers and Proceedings, 112(121-25) AEA link

Rethinking the Benefits of Youth Employment Programs: The Heterogeneous Effects of Summer Jobs (2020)

Jonathan M.V. Davis & Sara B. Heller

The Review of Economics and Statistics, 102(4): 664-677  ReStat link

Author's final version, accepted for publication May 2019   PDF

Please note: Due to length restrictions, there is a lot of information in the online appendix (including considerably more detail on the causal forest application, especially sections H and I.5)   Appendix

Formerly NBER Working Paper 23443 (posted 2017)   NBER link    PDF   Appendix 

Related podcasts: Probable Causation, J-PAL Voices

Related writing and interviews: NYT Op-ed, PBS NewsHour

How to Allocate Slots: the Market Design of Summer Youth Employment Programs (forthcoming)

Sara B. Heller & Judd B. Kessler

In Fair by Design: Economic Design Approaches to Inequality, Eds. S.D. Kominers & A. Teytelboym. Oxford University Press Series on Inequality in the Twenty-First Century, Oxford University Press.    PDF

Using Causal Forests to Predict Treatment Heterogeneity: An Application to Summer Jobs (2017)

Jonathan M.V. Davis & Sara B. Heller

American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings, 107(5): 546–550.    PDF    AEA link


Thinking, Fast and Slow? Some Field Experiments to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago (2017)

Sara B. Heller, Anuj K. Shah, Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig, Sendhil Mullainathan & Harold A. Pollack 

Quarterly Journal of Economics, 132(1): 1-54    QJE link

Formerly NBER Working Paper 21178 (posted 2015, updated 2016)  NBER link

Related podcast: Freakonomics

Summer Jobs Reduce Violence among Disadvantaged Youth (2014)

Sara B. Heller

Science, 346(6214): 1219-1223   Link to materials

Related podcasts: Probable Causation, J-PAL Voices

Related writing and interviews: NYT Op-ed, PBS NewsHour

Family Income, Neighborhood Poverty, and Crime (2011)

Sara B. Heller, Brian A. Jacob & Jens Ludwig 

In Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, Eds. Philip J. Cook, Jens Ludwig & Justin McCrary. National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report, University of Chicago Press.

Working Papers

Machine Learning Can Predict Shooting Victimization Well Enough to Help Prevent It (posted 2022, most recent revision 2023)

Sara B. Heller, Benjamin Jakubowski, Zubin Jelveh & Max Kapustin

Revise & resubmit, The Review of Economics and Statistics

NBER Working Paper 30170 NBER link

Ungated and updated version (March 2023)  PDF

Related podcast: Hidden Brain

Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment (2013)

Sara Heller, Harold Pollack, Roseanna Ander & Jens Ludwig 

Permanent working paper, subsumed under NBER WP 21178 and Heller et al. 2017

NBER Working Paper 19014     NBER link

In Progress

Bhatt, Monica, Sara B. Heller, Max Kapustin, Marianne Bertrand & Chris Blattman. 40-month follow-up of  READI Chicago including crime and health outcomes

Funded by NIH R01MD017194

Craig, Ashley, Sara B. Heller & Nikhil Rao, “Using Network Data to Measure Social Returns and Improve Targeting of Crime-Reduction Interventions”

Funded by NSF, Russell Sage Foundation, J-PAL, and University of Michigan

Preliminary note on READI spillovers PDF