The Relationship between Juvenile and Adult Crime
Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 04/02
Date: April 2002
Previous studies find a positive relationship between juvenile and adult criminal involvement. Using data on males from the Delinquency in a Birth Cohort II study, we investigate whether this correlation is due to unobserved characteristics that increase the probability of both juvenile and adult crime, or whether it is due to true state dependence in crime. Distinguishing between state dependence and heterogeneity is important from a policy perspective. For example, if youthful crime causes adult crime, then policies that reduce a juvenile's criminal behavior will also reduce criminal behavior as an adult. Using a treatment effects model, we find evidence of both state dependence and heterogeneity in the relationship between juvenile and adult crime. The causal influence of delinquency on adult crime is largest for white males and males with fewer years of schooling. The findings suggest that preventive policies that divert juveniles from crime are a viable policy tool for reducing the overall rate of crime.