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Do Teen Births Keep American Crime High?

  • Hunt, Jennifer

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.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/501090
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 49 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (October)
Pages: 533-66

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:y:2006:v:49:i:2:p:533-66
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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  1. 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 S225-S258, December.
  2. Imrohoroglu, A. & Merlo, A. & Rupert, P., 2000. "What Accounts for the Decline in Crime?," Working Papers 00-11, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  3. 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.
  4. Raphael, Steven & WINTER-EBMER, RUDOLF, 1998. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt5hb4h56g, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  5. 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.
  6. George J. Borjas & Glenn T. Sueyoshi, 1993. "A Two-Stage Estimator for Probit Models with Structural Group Effects," NBER Technical Working Papers 0146, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Mirko Draca & Stephen Machin, 2015. "Crime and Economic Incentives," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 7(1), pages 389-408, 08.
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