Does Juvenile Delinquency Reduce Educational Attainment?

41 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2015

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: December 2015


This article 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 incomeā€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 channel through which delinquency impacts education is expected returns to crime, as reflected by subjective beliefs about the probability of arrest for a property crime.

Suggested Citation

Ward, Shannon and Williams, Jenny, Does Juvenile Delinquency Reduce Educational Attainment? (December 2015). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 12, Issue 4, pp. 716-756, 2015. Available at SSRN: or

Shannon Ward (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053

Jenny Williams

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics ( email )

Melbourne, 3010


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