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Do Teen Births Keep American Crime High?

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  • Hunt, Jennifer

Abstract

The United States has a high teenage birth rate relative to other developed countries. Children of teenagers experience more difficult childhoods than other children and hence may be more likely subsequently to be victims or perpetrators of crimes. I assess to what extent international patterns in teenage birth rates can explain why the United States had the highest crime rates of developed countries in the 1980s and why U.S. relative crime rates subsequently fell. Using internationally comparable crime rates spanning 1989-2000, I find that assault rates are increased by an increase in the proportion of young adults who were born to a teenage mother. Intimate-partner assault, a crime most commonly occurring among young adults, is most affected. Variation in teenage birth rates fully explain the initially high U.S. assault level and prevented the subsequent fall in assault rate from being 20 percent greater. I also present evidence on larceny and burglary.

Suggested Citation

  • Hunt, Jennifer, 2006. "Do Teen Births Keep American Crime High?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 533-566, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:y:2006:v:49:i:2:p:533-66
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/501090
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Raphael, Steven & Winter-Ember, Rudolf, 2001. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 259-283, April.
    2. Borjas, George J. & Sueyoshi, Glenn T., 1994. "A two-stage estimator for probit models with structural group effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1-2), pages 165-182.
    3. Ayse Imrohoroglu & Antonio Merlo & Peter Rupert, 2004. "What Accounts For The Decline In Crime?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(3), pages 707-729, August.
    4. Steven D. Levitt, 1996. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence from Prison Overcrowding Litigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 319-351.
    5. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 225-258, December.
    6. Anindya Sen, 2002. "Does Increased Abortion Lead to Reduced Crime? Evaluating the Relationship between Crime, Abortion, and Fertility," Working Papers 02004, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2002.
    7. Mirko Draca & Stephen Machin, 2015. "Crime and Economic Incentives," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 7(1), pages 389-408, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Costas Meghir & Mårten Palme & Marieke Schnabel, 2011. "The effect of education policy on crime: an intergenerational perspective," IFS Working Papers W11/11, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    2. James J. Heckman, 2008. "Schools, Skills, And Synapses," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(3), pages 289-324, July.
    3. Peter Nilsson, 2008. "Does a pint a day affect your child's pay? The effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on adult outcomes," CeMMAP working papers CWP22/08, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    4. 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.

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