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Unmarried Fertility, Crime, and Social Stigma

  • Todd D. Kendall
  • Robert Tamura

Children born to unmarried parents may receive lower human capital investments, leading to higher levels of criminal activity as adults. Therefore, unmarried fertility may be positively associated with future crime. Alternatively, in an environment in which social stigma attached to nonmarital fertility is high, many low-match-quality parents will marry, and children reared in these families may actually be worse off than if their parents had not married. We explore these effects empirically, finding that over the long run unmarried fertility is positively associated with murder and property crime but that the degree of social stigma has affected this relationship. For instance, our results suggest that some marriages in the 1940s and 1950s were of such low quality that the children involved would have been better off in single-parent households; however, this finding is reversed for marriages in the 1960s and thereafter-many marriages that would have benefited children were forgone. (c) 2010 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 53 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 185-221

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:53:y:2010:i:1:p:185-221
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