Economic Conditions and Youth Crime

Yun-Shan Chan
Stony Brook University, USA

Traditionally, researches in sociology and psychology locate the origin of juvenile crime in family breakdown, supposedly abnormal systems of family functioning or other genetic and biological factors. They agree the role of economic incentives in crime but claim that such incentives may not be so relevant for youth. Work is a turning point for older offenders, but not younger ones. With the instrumental variables (IV) methods and the 1997 cohort of National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97), I find that the impact of work and wage on youth behavior is substantial as well as the influence from the family and peers. Young workers are 5 to 11% less likely to commit a crime than non-working youth. For young workers, an one unit increase in log wage will decrease the probability of committing a crime by 3 to 5%. Beside, the hazard of committing the first crime increases in the young group. This result is consistent to the previous studies that the peak ages of crimes in the middle teens to early twenties.

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