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Are Gangs a Substitute for Legitimate Employment? Investigating the Impact of Labor Market Effects on Gang Affiliation

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  • Alan Seals

Abstract

This paper adds to the literature estimates of local labor market effects on gang participation. The local unemployment rate is a proxy for the availability of legitimate employment. I use data from the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97) to model the probability of gang involvement. The effect of the local unemployment rate is statistically significant and positive. Robustness checks reveal gang participation of individuals less than sixteen years of age (the legal minimum age for most jobs) is not responsive to the local unemployment rate. However, the effect of the local unemployment rate on sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds is statistically significant and positive, which suggests juvenile gang participation depends on economic incentives. Gang participation among individuals with lower ASVAB scores is more sensitive to the local unemployment rate. Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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  • Alan Seals, 2009. "Are Gangs a Substitute for Legitimate Employment? Investigating the Impact of Labor Market Effects on Gang Affiliation," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(3), pages 407-425, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:kyklos:v:62:y:2009:i:3:p:407-425
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    1. Richard B. Freeman, 1996. "Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do about It?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 25-42, Winter.
    2. Angela K. Dills & Jeffrey A. Miron & Garrett Summers, 2010. "What Do Economists Know about Crime?," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 269-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. H. Naci Mocan & Daniel I. Rees, 2005. "Economic Conditions, Deterrence and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from Micro Data," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 319-349.
    5. Steven D. Levitt, 1998. "Juvenile Crime and Punishment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1156-1185, December.
    6. Andrew W. Horowitz & Julie R. Trivitt, 2007. "Does Child Labor Reduce Youth Crime?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(4), pages 559-573, November.
    7. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-290, June.
    8. Grogger, Jeff, 1998. "Market Wages and Youth Crime," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(4), pages 756-791, October.
    9. Cameron, Samuel, 1988. "The Economics of Crime Deterrence: A Survey of Theory and Evidence," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 301-323.
    10. Keith R. Ihlanfeldt, 2007. "Neighborhood Drug Crime and Young Males' Job Accessibility," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 151-164, February.
    11. Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Crime and the Employment of Disadvantaged Youths," NBER Working Papers 3875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Antony W. Dnes & Nuno Garoupa, 2010. "Behavior, Human Capital and the Formation of Gangs," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 517-529, November.
    2. Skarbek, David, 2012. "Prison gangs, norms, and organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 96-109.
    3. Panu Poutvaara & Mikael Priks, 2011. "Unemployment and gang crime: can prosperity backfire?," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 259-273, September.
    4. Seals, Richard Alan & Stern, Liliana V., 2013. "Cognitive ability and the division of labor in urban ghettos: Evidence from gang activity in U.S. data," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 140-149.
    5. Mikael Priks, 2010. "Does Frustration Lead to Violence? Evidence from the Swedish Hooligan Scene," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(3), pages 450-460, August.

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