10 January 2020

Evaluating the Education and Employment Attainment of Out-of-school Youth in Mexico: The Case of a Vocational Training Program in Zapopan, Jalisco

By Beatriz Magaloni, Gustavo Robles, Alberto Díaz-Cayeros, Brenda Jarillo

We conducted an impact evaluation of Youth with Hope (Jóvenes con Porvenir), the first large-scale vocational training program implemented in Mexico. Results indicate that participants increased their likelihood of finding a job; their reported monthly income; their number of hours worked per week; their access to professional networks; and their optimism about their future

Policy Issue

About a third of Mexico’s population consists on young people aged 15 to 29 years old. A large proportion of the more than 30 million youngsters in Mexico face considerable challenges due to the education and employability crisis in the country. The youth crisis is even more worrisome in states where drug trafficking and crime organizations have expanded, and street gangs have grown. In the last few years, the number of social programs aimed at increasing employability among youths in Latin America have increased considerably.

Context of Evaluation

The government of Zapopan launched in 2013 the Jóvenes con Porvenir program (Youth with Hope) as a vocational training program for 15- to 30-year-olds who were not attending formal education and lived in Zapopan. Participants enrolled in tuition-free courses, which were contracted to private higher education institutions. More than 500 courses were offered on trades and careers in both technical and vocational fields. Students could choose one course per semester, and were allowed to enroll in up to three courses. From February of 2013 to February of 2015, the program offered nearly 32,000 scholarships to almost 24,000 beneficiaries. 

Details of the Intervention

The evaluation involved a quasi-experimental design leveraging the fact that the program was directed exclusively to Zapopan’s residents. The control group was then constructed by a random sample of young residents from Guadalajara’s metropolitan area with similar observable characteristics, but who were ineligible to participate in the program for exogenous reasons. To control for non-observable characteristics, we included in the control group respondents who signaled interest in participating in Youth with Hope if they were eligible. We selected a random sample of 10 percent of the total number of beneficiaries (1,635 students) and 875 youngsters in the control group. A baseline survey was carried out before the Youth with Hope courses started. The follow-up surveys were carried out six months and one year after the baseline, when courses had concluded.


  • The program increased the likelihood of finding a job by 11 percentage points for participants under 23 years of age.
  • Participation in the program had a positive impact on the monthly income of different subsets of participants: 23 year-older or younger, males, and participants living in neighborhoods with low and medium levels of marginalization.
  • The program increased the likelihood of knowing someone in their field or area of interest by 21 percentage points for those living in areas with high levels of marginalization.
  • The program diminished the prevalence of risk-prone behavior amongst youth. Respondents were asked whether they had one or more friends linked to a gang.
  • The program improved participants’ perception of their own future.

Conclusions & Policy Recommendations

  • It is convenient to expand the program to a larger scale.
  • The design of the program can be enhanced by targeting the youth residing in neighborhoods of medium and high levels of marginality.
  • It would be important to reduce program attrition among youth from neighborhoods with medium and high levels of marginalization, and among participants under 23 years of age.
  • The program should increase its capacity to provide financial support for the transportation of potential participants living in marginalized neighborhoods.
  • It is also relevant to consider including other components for improving employment outcomes among former program participants, such as social skills training and professional practices in enterprises.
  • It should be a priority of the program to create links and collaborate with complementary programs aimed at developing social resilience and pro-social behaviors among youth who are at risk of gang involvement.