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Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do About It?

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  • Richard B. Freeman

Abstract

This paper shows that participation in crime and involvement with the criminal justice system has reached extraordinary levels among young men. With approximately 2 percent as many men incarcerated as in the labor force, the crime rate should have plummeted. It didn't. Evidence suggests that the depressed labor market for low skill American workers contributed to the continued high level of crime by less educated men, despite incapacitation and the deterrent effect of imprisonment. The costs of incarceration are such that even marginally effective prevention policies can be socially desirable.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Freeman, 1996. "Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do About It?," NBER Working Papers 5451, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5451
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Steven D. Levitt, 1996. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence from Prison Overcrowding Litigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 319-351.
    2. Pamela K. Lattimore & Ann Dryden Witte & Joanna R. Baker, 1989. "Experimental Assessment of the Effect of Vocational Training on Youthful Property Offenders," NBER Working Papers 2952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. W. Kip Viscusi, 1986. "Market Incentives for Criminal Behavior," NBER Chapters,in: The Black Youth Employment Crisis, pages 301-351 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Scott Boggess & John Bound, 1993. "Did Criminal Activity Increase During the 1980s? Comparisons Across Data Sources," NBER Working Papers 4431, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. McKinley L. Blackburn & David E. Bloom & Richard B. Freeman, 1989. "The Declining Economic Position of Less-Skilled American Males," NBER Working Papers 3186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Chinhui Juhn & Kevin M. Murphy & Robert H. Topel, 1991. "Why Has the Natural Rate of Unemployment Increased over Time?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 75-142.
    7. Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Crime and the Employment of Disadvantaged Youths," NBER Working Papers 3875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Richard Freeman, 1987. "The relation of criminal activity to black youth employment," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 16(1), pages 99-107, June.
    9. Topel, Robert, 1993. "What Have We Learned from Empirical Studies of Unemployment and Turnover?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 110-115, May.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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