NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Crime and Circumstance: The Effects of Infant Health Shocks on Fathers' Criminal Activity

Hope Corman, Kelly Noonan, Nancy E. Reichman, Ofira Schwartz-Soicher

NBER Working Paper No. 12754
Issued in December 2006
NBER Program(s):   CH   HC   HE   LS

Few studies in the economics literature have linked individuals' criminal behavior to changes in their personal circumstances. Life shocks, such as natural or personal disasters, could reduce or sever a person's connections to his/her family, job, or community. With fewer connections, crime may become a more attractive option. This study addresses the question of whether an exogenous shock in life circumstances affects criminal activity. Specifically, we estimate the effects of the birth of a child with a random and serious health problem (versus the birth of a healthy infant) on the likelihood that the child's father becomes or remains involved in illegal activities. Controlling for the father's pre-birth criminal activity, we find that the shock of having a child with a serious health problem increases both the father's post-birth conviction and incarceration by 1 to 8 percentage points, depending on the measure of infant health used.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12754

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