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The Effect of Convicton on Income Through the Life Cycle

  • Daniel Nagin
  • Joel Waldfogel

Existing studies of the impact of conviction on income and employment do not consider life cycle issues. We postulate that conviction reduces access to career jobs offering stable, long-term employment. Instead, conviction relegates offenders to spot market jobs, which may have higher pay at the outset of the career but do not offer stable employment or rapidly rising wages. Thus, first-time conviction may increase the wages of young workers while decreasing the wages of older workers. We test our theory with data on federal offenders and find that first-time conviction has a positive and significant effect on income for offenders under age 25 and an increasingly negative and significant impact for offenders over age 30. These results imply that the present value of income lost as a result of conviction varies over the life cycle, reaching a maximum in the middle of the career. We find that the gains sought by these offenders follow similar profiles, suggesting that prospective offenders are deterred by the possibility of lost future income. Because the discounted loss in future income facing young offenders may be small, our results may provide part of an explanation of youth crime.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4551.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4551.

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Date of creation: Nov 1993
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Publication status: published as International Review of Law & Economics, Vol. 18, no. 1 (March 1998), pp. 25-40.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4551
Note: LE
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  1. Grogger, Jeff, 1992. "Arrests, Persistent Youth Joblessness, and Black/White Employment Differentials," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(1), pages 100-106, February.
  2. Polachek,Solomon W. & Siebert,W. Stanley, 1993. "The Economics of Earnings," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521367288.
  3. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352.
  4. Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Crime and the Employment of Disadvantaged Youths," NBER Working Papers 3875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Nagin, Daniel & Waldfogel, Joel, 1995. "The effects of criminality and conviction on the labor market status of young British offenders," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 109-126, January.
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