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Explaining the Relationship Between Employment and Juvenile Delinquency

Publication Abstract

Staff, Jeremy, D. Wayne Osgood, John E. Schulenberg, Jerald Bachman, and Emily E. Messersmith. 2010. "Explaining the Relationship Between Employment and Juvenile Delinquency." Criminology, 48(4): 1101-1131.

Most criminological theories predict an inverse relationship between employment and crime, but teenagers' involvement in paid work during the school year is correlated positively with delinquency and substance use. Whether the work–delinquency association is causal or spurious has been debated for a long time. This study estimates the effect of paid work on juvenile delinquency using longitudinal data from the national Monitoring the Future project. We address issues of spuriousness by using a two-level hierarchical model to estimate the relationships of within-individual changes in juvenile delinquency and substance use to those in paid work and other explanatory variables. We also disentangle the effects of actual employment from the preferences for employment to provide insight about the likely role of time-varying selection factors tied to employment, delinquency, school engagement, and leisure activities. Whereas causal effects of employment would produce differences based on whether and how many hours respondents worked, we found significantly higher rates of crime and substance use among nonemployed youth who preferred intensive versus moderate work. Our findings suggest the relationship between high-intensity work and delinquency results from preexisting factors that lead youth to desire varying levels of employment.

DOI:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2010.00213.x (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC3062908. (Pub Med Central)

Country of focus: United States.

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