Economic Conditions, Deterrence and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from Micro Data

H. Naci Mocan, Daniel I. Rees

NBER Working Paper No. 7405
Issued in October 1999
NBER Program(s):Children

This is the first paper to test the economic model of crime for juveniles using micro data. It uses a nationally representative sample of 16,478 high school children surveyed in 1995. The sample includes not only detailed information on offenses, but also data on personal, family and neighborhood characteristics as well as deterrence measures. We analyze the determinants of selling drugs, committing assault, robbery, burglary and theft, separately for males and females. We find that an increase in violent crime arrests reduces the probability of selling drugs and assaulting someone for males, and reduces the probability of selling drugs and stealing for females. An increase in local unemployment increases the propensity to commit crimes, as does local poverty. Similarly, family poverty increases the probability to commit robbery, burglary and theft for males, and assault and burglary for females. Local characteristics are more important for females than males. The results also indicate that family supervision has an impact on delinquent behavior. These results show that juveniles do respond to incentives and sanctions as predicted by economic theory. Employment opportunities, increased family income and more strict deterrence are effective tools to reduce juvenile crime.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7405

Published: H. Naci Mocan & Daniel I. Rees, 2005. "Economic Conditions, Deterrence and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from Micro Data," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 319-349. citation courtesy of

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