Crime and Circumstance: The Effects of Infant Health Shocks on Fathers' Criminal Activity
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.
This research was supported by Grants #R01-HD-45630 and #R01-HD-35301 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We are grateful for helpful input from Jerry Bentley, Naci Mocan, Melinda Pitts, and Joy Schneer, and for valuable assistance from Magdalena Ostatkiewicz and Nicole Boynton. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Corman, H., Noonan, K., Reichman, N., Schwartz-Soicher. 2011. Life Shocks and Crime: A Test of the “Turning Point” Hypothesis. Demography 48(3): 1177–1202.