Vocational Education and Training: A Pathway to the Straight and Narrow

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 21/16

Date: 2016


Nikhil Jha
Cain Polidano


Education is often claimed to reduce social exclusion and crime, yet there is little empirical evidence beyond that for increased schooling. In this study, we estimate the crime-reducing effects of participating in post-secondary vocational education and training (VET) between ages 16 and 44, exploiting a natural experiment in Australia that increased VET participation in the state of Victoria, but not in the neighbouring state of New South Wales. Using postcode (zipcode) level administrative data and difference-in-differences estimation, we find that increased VET participation is associated with reduced person, drug and property crime. We find much larger effects for mature-age people (26-44) than for young people (16-25), possibly because crime at this age is more closely linked to legitimate labor market opportunities. These results provide plausibly causal evidence that extending opportunities for later-life education and training can have substantial public benefits.

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