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Teen Births Keep American Crime High

  • Hunt, Jennifer

The United States has a teenage birth rate that is high relative to that of other developed countries, and falling more slowly. Children of teenagers may experience difficult childhoods and hence be more likely to commit crimes subsequently. I assess to what extent lagged teen birth rates can explain why the United States had the highest developed country crime rates in the 1980s, and why US rates subsequently fell so much. For this purpose, I use internationally comparable crime rates measured from the 1989-2000 International Crime Victims Surveys. I find that an increase in the share of young people born to a teen mother increases the assault rate. The type of assault affected is perpetrated by unarmed lone assailants known to the victim by name, particularly at home or at work, and is not reported to the police. The pattern of teen births in the United States explains –30% of the relative fall in assaults by assailants known to the victim, but more than explains the 1980s gap with the rest of the world. I also present evidence on larceny and burglary.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3906.

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Date of creation: May 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3906
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  1. Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence From Prison Overcrowding Litigation," NBER Working Papers 5119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John Donohue & Steven Levitt, 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," NBER Working Papers 8004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Steve Machin & Costas Meghir, 2000. "Crime and economic incentives," IFS Working Papers W00/17, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  10. Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Inequality And Crime," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 530-539, November.
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  12. Robert Witt & Ann Dryden Witte, 1998. "Crime, Imprisonment, and Female Labor Force Participation: A Time-Series Approach," NBER Working Papers 6786, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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.
  14. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1998. "Cross-city evidence on the relationship between immigration and crime," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 457-493.
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  16. repec:ucn:oapubs:10197/523 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Lederman, Daniel & Loayza, Norman, 2002. "Inequality and Violent Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 1-40, April.
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