The Criminal Careers of Young Men

Juan Pantano, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper formulates and estimates a dynamic, life cycle model of education and criminal behavior. Every period, individuals optimally decide whether to engage in criminal activities or to invest in human capital, either in the form of full-time school or accumulating experience through learning by doing. The estimated model sheds light on the relationship between education and crime and it allows me to test competing explanations advanced in the literature. Specifically, some researchers have suggested that schools primarily serve the function of keeping kids off the street. Others highlight the role of schools in raising the opportunity costs of criminal behavior. The model is also used to evaluate alternative policies associated with the availability of criminal records, improving our understanding of criminal record stigma as a cost borne by ex-offenders and also as an expected cost taken into account by those considering engaging in crime.

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Presented in Session 31: Demography of Crime