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Short Criminals: Stature and Crime in Early America

  • Howard Bodenhorn
  • Carolyn Moehling
  • Gregory N. Price

We consider the extent to which an individual’s height affected the age at which he entered into criminal activity in early America. Using data on prisoners incarcerated in Pennsylvania’s nineteenth-century prisons, we show that prisoners were short relative to the contemporary population. Then, using Weibull continuous-time duration econometric models, we show that age at entry into criminal activity was negatively associated with an individual’s height after controlling for several individual characteristics. The results are consistent with recent research showing that shorter individuals face less attractive legitimate labor market opportunities because lower stature is associated with lower cognitive ability and because of general discrimination against shorter people.

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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1086/663347
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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/663347
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 55 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 393 - 419

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/663347
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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  1. Thomas, Duncan & Strauss, John, 1992. "Prices, infrastructure, household characteristics and child height," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 301-331, October.
  2. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2003. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," PIER Working Paper Archive 03-036, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. McEvoy, Brian P. & Visscher, Peter M., 2009. "Genetics of human height," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 294-306, December.
  4. Arthur H. Goldsmith & Darrick Hamilton & William Darity Jr, 2006. "Shades of Discrimination: Skin Tone and Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 242-245, May.
  5. Michael Kortt & Andrew Leigh, 2010. "Does Size Matter in Australia?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 86(272), pages 71-83, 03.
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  7. Witte, Ann Dryden, 1980. "Estimating the Economic Model of Crime with Individual Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 57-84, February.
  8. Bodenhorn, Howard, 1999. "A Troublesome Caste: Height and Nutrition of Antebellum Virginia's Rural Free Blacks," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(04), pages 972-996, December.
  9. Arthur H. Goldsmith & Darrick Hamilton & William Darity, Jr, 2007. "From Dark to Light: Skin Color and Wages Among African-Americans," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(4).
  10. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  11. Rees, Daniel I. & Sabia, Joseph J. & Argys, Laura M., 2009. "A head above the rest: Height and adolescent psychological well-being," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 217-228, July.
  12. Kiefer, Nicholas M, 1988. "Economic Duration Data and Hazard Functions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 646-79, June.
  13. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
  14. Andreas Wienke, 2003. "Frailty models," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2003-032, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
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