Does Juvenile Delinquency Reduce Educational Attainment?

41 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2014

See all articles by Shannon Ward

Shannon Ward

University of Melbourne

Jenny Williams

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 22, 2014


This paper investigates the effect of delinquency in youth on subsequent educational attainment. To do so, we focus on delinquent acts committed by age 16 and examine their impact on two measures of educational attainment: high school graduation and college graduation. Using information on males from the extremely rich National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, we find plausible evidence that delinquency by age 16 reduces the likelihood of graduating from high school and college. This effect is driven by early initiators, those who offend intensely, and by those whose delinquent activities involve income generating acts. Importantly, the impact of delinquency on education is not confined to those who have interaction with the criminal justice system, or gang members. Further analysis suggests that a mechanism through which delinquency impacts on education is expected returns to crime, as reflected by subjective beliefs about the probability of arrest for a property crime. This effect is stronger for those of higher ability and is robust to accounting for attitude to risk.

Keywords: delinquency; education; youth

JEL Classification: I2, K4, D0

Suggested Citation

Ward, Shannon and Williams, Jenny, Does Juvenile Delinquency Reduce Educational Attainment? (July 22, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Shannon Ward

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053

Jenny Williams (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics ( email )

Melbourne, 3010


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