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Turning 18: What a Difference Application of Adult Criminal Law Makes

  • Entorf, Horst


    (Goethe University Frankfurt)

This paper contributes to the literature on specific deterrence by addressing the issue of selecting adolescents into adult and juvenile law systems. In Germany, different from the U.S. and most other countries, turning a critical cutoff age does not cause a sharp discontinuity from juvenile to adult penal law, but rather implies a shift to a discretionary system of both adult and juvenile law, dependent on the courts' impression of moral and mental personal development of the adolescent at the time of the act. The German legal system draws the line of adulthood at some fuzzy age interval between 18 and 21, which is well above the thresholds prevailing in the U.S. (16 to 18 years, state specific) and other countries such that the German evidence entails some external evidence to the previous literature mostly relying on U.S. data. Based on a unique inmate survey and two-equation models controlling for selectivity problems, results show that application of adult criminal law instead of juvenile penal law decreases expected recidivism of adolescents.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5434.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as 'Expected Recidivism among Young Offenders: Comparing Specific Deterrence under Juvenile and Adult Criminal Law' in: European Journal of Political Economy, 2012, 28 (4), 414-429
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5434
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  1. Horst Entorf & Hannes Spengler, 2008. "Is Being 'Soft on Crime' the Solution to Rising Crime Rates?: Evidence from Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 837, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  2. Steven D. Levitt, 1997. "Juvenile Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 6191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Lance Lochner, 2003. "Individual Perceptions of the Criminal Justice System," NBER Working Papers 9474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  5. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Randi Hjalmarsson, 2009. "Juvenile Jails: A Path to the Straight and Narrow or to Hardened Criminality?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(4), pages 779-809, November.
  7. McCrary, Justin & Lee, David S., 2009. "The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt2gh1r30h, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  8. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
  9. Horst Entorf, 2009. "Crime and the Labour Market: Evidence from a Survey of Inmates," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 229(2-3), pages 254-269, June.
  10. Entorf, Horst & Winker, Peter, 2006. "Investigating the Drugs-Crime Channel in Economics of Crime Models Empirical Evidence from Panel Data of the German States," Darmstadt Discussion Papers in Economics 36776, Darmstadt Technical University, Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law, Institute of Economics (VWL).
  11. White, Halbert, 1982. "Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Misspecified Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 1-25, January.
  12. Wilbert van der Klaauw, 2008. "Regression-Discontinuity Analysis: A Survey of Recent Developments in Economics," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 22(2), pages 219-245, 06.
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