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Teen Births Keep American Crime High

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  • Hunt, Jennifer

    () (Rutgers University)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Hunt, Jennifer, 2003. "Teen Births Keep American Crime High," IZA Discussion Papers 757, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp757
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Murat G. Kýrdar & Meltem Dayýoglu Tayfur & Ýsmet Koç, 2010. "The Effect of Compulsory Schooling Laws on Teenage Marriage and Births in Turkey," Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers 1035, Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum.
    2. Gordon Dahl, 2010. "Early teen marriage and future poverty," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(3), pages 689-718, August.
    3. Alejandro Gaviria & Carlos Medina & Leonardo Morales & Jairo Núñez, 2010. "The Cost of Avoiding Crime: The Case of Bogotá," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 101-132 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Alejandro Gaviria & Carlos Medina & Jorge Tamayo, 2010. "Assessing the Link between Adolescent Fertility and Urban Crime," BORRADORES DE ECONOMIA 006860, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA.
    5. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereaux & Kjell Salvanes, 2004. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High? The Effect of Compulsory Schooling Laws on Teenage Births," NBER Working Papers 10911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Alejandro Gaviria & Carlos Medina & Leonardo Morales & Jairo Nuñez, 2008. "The Cost of Avoiding Crime: The Case of Bogotá," Borradores de Economia 508, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    7. Anna Sibilla Francesca DE PAOLI, 2010. "The effect of schooling on fertility, labor market participation and children’s outcomes, evidence from Ecuador," Departmental Working Papers 2010-30, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    8. Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2007. "Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Early Childbearing," NBER Chapters,in: The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective, pages 181-209 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Todd D. Kendall & Robert Tamura, 2010. "Unmarried Fertility, Crime, and Social Stigma," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 185-221, February.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    family structure; crime;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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