NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Crime and the Employment of Disadvantaged Youths

Richard B. Freeman

NBER Working Paper No. 3875
Issued in October 1991
NBER Program(s):   LS

This paper examines the magnitude of criminal activity among disadvantaged youths in the 1980s. It shows that a large proportion of youths who dropped out of high school, particularly black school dropouts, developed criminal records in the decade; and that those who were incarcerated in 1980 or earlier were much less likely to hold jobs than other youths over the entire decade. The magnitudes of incarceration, probation, and parole among black dropouts, in particular, suggest that crime has become an intrinsic part of the youth unemployment and poverty problem, rather than deviant behavior on the margin. Limited evidence on the returns to crime suggest that with the decline in earnings and employment for less educated young men, crime offers an increasingly attractive alternative.

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Published: Peterson, George and Wayne Vroman (eds.) Urban Labor Markets and Job Opportunity. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 1992.

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