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Unmarried Fertility, Crime, and Social Stigma

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  • Todd D. Kendall
  • Robert Tamura

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Todd D. Kendall & Robert Tamura, 2010. "Unmarried Fertility, Crime, and Social Stigma," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 185-221, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:53:y:2010:i:1:p:185-221
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    Cited by:

    1. Neanidis, Kyriakos C. & Papadopoulou, Vea, 2013. "Crime, fertility, and economic growth: Theory and evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 101-121.
    2. O’Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2015. "Urban Crime," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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