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The effect of education policy on crime: an intergenerational perspective


  • Costas Meghir

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Yale University)

  • Mårten Palme

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University of Stockholm)

  • Marieke Schnabel

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)


The Swedish comprehensive school reform implied an extension of the number of years of compulsory school from 7 or 8 to 9 for the entire nation and was implemented as a social experiment by municipality between 1949 and 1962. A previous study (Meghir and Palme, 2005) has shown that this reform significantly increased the number of years of schooling as well as labor earnings of the children who went through the post reform school system, in particular for individuals originating from homes with low educated fathers. This study estimates the impact of the reform on criminal behavior: both within the generation directly affected by the reform as well as their children. We use census data on all born in Sweden between 1945 and 1955 and all their children merged with individual register data on all convictions between 1981 and 2008. We find a significant inverse effect of the reform on criminal behavior of men and on sons to fathers who went through the new school system.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:11/11

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anders Björklund & Mikael Lindahl & Erik Plug, 2006. "The Origins of Intergenerational Associations: Lessons from Swedish Adoption Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 999-1028.
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    Cited by:

    1. Brian Bell & Rui Costa & Stephen Machin, 2015. "Crime, Compulsory Schooling Laws and Education," CEP Discussion Papers dp1374, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    2. Rud, Iryna & Van Klaveren, Chris & Groot, Wim & Maassen van den Brink, Henriëtte, 2014. "The externalities of crime: The effect of criminal involvement of parents on the educational attainment of their children," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 89-103.
    3. Grönqvist, Hans & Niknami, Susan, 2014. "Alcohol availability and crime: Lessons from liberalized weekend sales restrictions," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 77-84.
    4. Mike Brewer & Monica Costa Dias & Jonathan Shaw, 2012. "Lifetime inequality and redistribution," IFS Working Papers W12/23, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    5. Figlio, D. & Karbownik, K. & Salvanes, K.G., 2016. "Education Research and Administrative Data," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    6. Ignacio Munyo, 2015. "The Juvenile Crime Dilemma," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(2), pages 201-211, April.
    7. Costa, Rui & Machin, Stephen, 2016. "Crime, compulsory schooling laws and educationAuthor-Name: Bell, Brian," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 214-226.
    8. Aslund, Olof & Grönqvist, Hans & Hall, Caroline & Vlachos, Jonas, 2015. "Education and Criminal Behavior: Insights from an Expansion of Upper Secondary School," IZA Discussion Papers 9374, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Hjalmarsson, Randi & Lindquist, Matthew J., 2013. "The origins of intergenerational associations in crime: Lessons from Swedish adoption data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(C), pages 68-81.
    10. Karin Hederos Eriksson & Randi Hjalmarsson & Matthew J. Lindquist & Anna Sandberg, 2016. "The importance of family background and neighborhood effects as determinants of crime," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(1), pages 219-262, January.
    11. Blomquist Glenn C. & Troske Kenneth R. & Coomes Paul A. & Jepsen Christopher & Koford Brandon C., 2014. "Estimating the social value of higher education: willingness to pay for community and technical colleges," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-39, January.
    12. Lindgren, Karl-Oskar & Oskarsson, Sven & T Dawes, Christopher, 2014. "Can political inequalities be educated away? Evidence from a Swedish school reform," Working Paper Series 2014:29, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    13. repec:ces:ifodic:v:10:y:2012:i:2:p:18946535 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Randi Hjalmarsson & Lance Lochner, 2012. "The Impact of Education on Crime: International Evidence," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 10(2), pages 49-55, 08.
    15. Campaniello, Nadia & Gray, Rowena & Mastrobuoni, Giovanni, 2016. "Returns to education in criminal organizations: Did going to college help Michael Corleone?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 242-258.
    16. Brugård, Kaja Høiseth & Falch, Torberg, 2013. "Post-compulsory education and imprisonment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 97-106.
    17. Palme, Mårten & Simeonova, Emilia, 2015. "Does women's education affect breast cancer risk and survival? Evidence from a population based social experiment in education," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 115-124.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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