Oh, and to be fair to the eminent scholars at the Naval Postgraduate School, let's suggest that they weren't really wondering whether there was any connection between dropout rates, unemployment, and gang violence. They were, however, applying different analysis tools to the issue. (Whether it makes sense to apply military modes of analysis to this environment is left to the reader.) They could have had faulty assumptions about crowded housing, though, hence their surprise about that variable.
NPS study of Salinas links dropout rate, unemployment to gang violenceHaving volunteered in a local library homework program, I think there's a slight breakdown in logic as stated below:
Salinas employment another key factor, NPS study shows
By JULIA REYNOLDS
Herald Salinas Bureau
Updated: 12/22/2009 01:27:46 AM PST
In a report to be released next month, researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey find that nearly 30 years of violence in Salinas has been intimately tied to education and employment levels, but not necessarily to crowded housing or police staffing levels.
"Although funding will be a problem for any program recommended to help lower violence, education pursuits should be given priority for funding," the report concludes.
One finding surprised the authors — that Salinas' crowded housing not only did not exacerbate violent crime, but was inexplicably tied to decreases.
One intent of many library & after-school programs is prevention. If people "who are not involved in violent crimes or gangs" participate in such programs, and they stay out of trouble, you can argue that it's the programs or you can argue that the same people, they or their parents being so inclined, would have found some other activity to stay out of trouble. You can also argue that the same people would contribute to the level of violent crime if there were no programs. There's no way to be sure, based on current methods. (Current methods are fairly random. Ideas, funding, and volunteers come and go with the wind.)
But they ran into obstacles along the way. Prison recidivism numbers, for instance, were available only for the entire state. Also, there wasn't enough information about who actually uses services believed to steer kids away from gangs, such as libraries and after-school programs.
"If these programs are primarily patronized by children and adults who are not involved in violent crimes or gangs, then it is logical that these programs would not significantly impact the level of violent crime," the study said. [emphasis added]