Crime, Broken Families, and Punishment
104 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2018 Last revised: 27 Jan 2021
Date Written: October 5, 2020
We develop a two-period overlapping generations model in which both the structure of the family and the decision to commit crime are endogenous and the dynamics of moral norms of good conduct (honesty trait) is transmitted intergenerationally by families and peers. Having a father at home might be crucial to prevent susceptible boys from becoming criminals, as this facilitates the transmission of the honesty trait against criminal behavior. By destroying biparental families and putting fathers in prison, we show that more intense crime repression can backfire at the local level because it increases the possibility that criminals' sons become criminals themselves. Consistent with sociological disorganization theories of crime, the model also explains the emergence and persistence of urban ghettos characterized by a large proportion of broken families, high crime rates, and high levels of peer socialization, which reinforce criminal activities. Finally, we discuss the efficiency of segregation, family and education policies in terms of long-term crime rates.
Keywords: Crime, Social Interactions, Cultural Transmission, Social Disorganization Theory, Broken Families, Urban Ghettos, Segregation
JEL Classification: K42, J15, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation