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Compulsory Schooling Laws and In-School Crime: Are Delinquents Incapacitated?


  • Gregory A. Gilpin

    () (Montana State University)

  • Luke A. Pennig

    () (Montana State University)


Minimum dropout age (MDA) laws have been touted as effective policies to bring dropouts off streets and into classrooms. One question to better understand the costs and benefits of these laws is: to what extent do MDA laws displace crime from streets to schools? This research expands the compulsory schooling literature and extends the sparse research on in-school crime by studying how MDA laws affect crimes committed in U.S. public high schools. The analysis is conducted using a difference-in-difference estimator exploiting variation in state-level MDA laws over time. The results indicate that an increase in the MDA to 18 significantly increases in-school crime by 0.434 incidences per 1,000 students or a 6.2% increase. Analyzing specific crime types, the results find that attacks without a weapon, threats without a weapon, and illegal drug incidences increase by 0.627, 0.588 and 0.437 incidences (or 12.2%, 36.3%, and 43.4% increase), respectively. An increase in the MDA to 17 is found to have no effect on in-school crime. The results are robust across different socioeconomic student bodies and control groups. Lastly, we find that in-school crime prevention resources do not increase with an increase in the MDA, but that utilization rates of suspensions and expulsions change in the direction of fortifying state policymakers efforts to keep juveniles in schools.

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  • Gregory A. Gilpin & Luke A. Pennig, 2012. "Compulsory Schooling Laws and In-School Crime: Are Delinquents Incapacitated?," Caepr Working Papers 2012-005, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  • Handle: RePEc:inu:caeprp:2012-005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alejandro Gaviria & Steven Raphael, 2001. "School-Based Peer Effects And Juvenile Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(2), pages 257-268, May.
    2. SandraE. Black & PaulJ. Devereux & KjellG. Salvanes, 2008. "Staying in the Classroom and out of the maternity ward? The effect of compulsory schooling laws on teenage births," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(530), pages 1025-1054, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anderson, D. Mark & Hansen, Benjamin & Walker, Mary Beth, 2013. "The minimum dropout age and student victimization," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 66-74.

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