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Does Child Abuse Cause Crime?

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  • Janet Currie
  • Erdal Tekin

Abstract

Child maltreatment, which includes both child abuse and child neglect, is a major social problem. This paper focuses on measuring the effects of child maltreatment on crime using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). We focus on crime because it is one of the most socially costly potential outcomes of maltreatment, and because the proposed mechanisms linking maltreatment and crime are relatively well elucidated in the literature. Our work addresses many limitations of the existing literature on child maltreatment. First, we use a large national sample, and investigate different types of abuse in a similar framework. Second, we pay careful attention to identifying the causal impact of abuse, by using a variety of statistical methods that make differing assumptions. These methods include: Ordinary Least Squares (OLS), propensity score matching estimators, and twin fixed effects. Finally, we examine the extent to which the effects of maltreatment vary with socio-economic status (SES), gender, and the severity of the maltreatment. We find that maltreatment approximately doubles the probability of engaging in many types of crime. Low SES children are both more likely to be mistreated and suffer more damaging effects. Boys are at greater risk than girls, at least in terms of increased propensity to commit crime. Sexual abuse appears to have the largest negative effects, perhaps justifying the emphasis on this type of abuse in the literature. Finally, the probability of engaging in crime increases with the experience of multiple forms of maltreatment as well as the experience of Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12171.

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Date of creation: Apr 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12171

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  1. Erdal Tekin & Sara Markowitz, 2005. "Suicidal Behavior and the Labor Market Productivity of Young Adults," Working Papers Rutgers University, Newark 2005-003, Department of Economics, Rutgers University, Newark.
  2. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2003. "Are Idle Hands the Devil's Workshop? Incapacitation, Concentration, and Juvenile Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1560-1577, December.
  3. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," NBER Working Papers 8344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Christina Paxson & Jane Waldfogel, 1999. "Work, Welfare, and Child Maltreatment," NBER Working Papers 7343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Zhao, Zhong, 2005. "Sensitivity of Propensity Score Methods to the Specifications," IZA Discussion Papers 1873, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Jane Waldfogel & Christina Paxson, 1999. "Parental Resources and Child Abuse and Neglect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 239-244, May.
  7. Guido W. Imbens, 2003. "Nonparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects under Exogeneity: A Review," NBER Technical Working Papers 0294, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Hope Corman & Naci Mocan, 2002. "Carrots, Sticks and Broken Windows," NBER Working Papers 9061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. H. Naci Mocan & Daniel I. Rees, 1999. "Economic Conditions, Deterrence and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from Micro Data," NBER Working Papers 7405, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. H. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin, 2003. "Guns, Drugs and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from a Panel of Siblings and Twins," NBER Working Papers 9824, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Freeman, Richard B., 1999. "The economics of crime," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 52, pages 3529-3571 Elsevier.
  12. Mocan, H Naci & Tekin, Erdal, 2006. "Guns and Juvenile Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 507-31, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Ciro Biderman & João Manoel Pinho de Mello & Alexandre A Schneider, 2006. "Dry law and homicides: evidence from the São Paulo metropolitan area," Textos para discussão 518, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil), revised Oct 2008.
  2. Yoshito Takasaki, 2011. "Fraud and Poverty: Exploring Ex Ante Victim Data," Tsukuba Economics Working Papers 2011-002, Economics, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba.
  3. Suncica Vujic & Pierre Koning & Dinand Webbink & N. Martin, 2008. "The effect of childhood conduct disorder on human capital," CPB Discussion Paper 113, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  4. Francesconi, Marco & Jenkins, Stephen P. & Siedler, Thomas, 2005. "Childhood Family Structure and Schooling Outcomes: Evidence for Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 1837, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Anna Aizer, 2008. "Neighborhood Violence and Urban Youth," NBER Working Papers 13773, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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