The School to Prison Pipeline: Long-Run Impacts of School Suspensions on Adult Crime

53 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2019 Last revised: 30 Sep 2022

See all articles by Andrew Bacher-Hicks

Andrew Bacher-Hicks

Harvard University

Stephen B. Billings

University of Colorado - Boulder

David Deming

Academic Dean, Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: September 2019

Abstract

Schools face important policy tradeoffs in monitoring and managing student behavior. Strict discipline policies may stigmatize suspended students and expose them to the criminal justice system at a young age. On the other hand, strict discipline acts as a deterrent and limits harmful spillovers of misbehavior onto other students. This paper estimates the net impact of school discipline on student achievement, educational attainment and adult criminal activity. Using exogenous variation in school assignment caused by a large and sudden boundary change and a supplementary design based on principal switches, we show that schools with higher suspension rates have substantial negative long-run impacts. Students assigned to a school that has a one standard deviation higher suspension rate are 15 to 20 percent more likely to be arrested and incarcerated as adults. We also find negative impacts on educational attainment. The negative impacts of attending a high suspension school are largest for males and minorities.

Suggested Citation

Bacher-Hicks, Andrew and Billings, Stephen B. and Deming, David, The School to Prison Pipeline: Long-Run Impacts of School Suspensions on Adult Crime (September 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w26257, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3454358

Andrew Bacher-Hicks (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stephen B. Billings

University of Colorado - Boulder ( email )

Leeds School of Business
Koelbel Building
Boulder, CO US 80309
United States

David Deming

Academic Dean, Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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