In School and Out of Trouble? Compulsory Schooling and Juvenile Crime

D. Mark Anderson, University of Washington

Despite popular accounts that link school attendance to keeping youth out of trouble, little systematic research has analyzed the contemporaneous relationship between schooling and juvenile crime. Using county-level arrest data, this paper examines the connection between the minimum age at which youth can legally leave school and juvenile arrest rates by exploiting variation in state dropout laws. The evidence suggests that minimum dropout age requirements have a significant and negative effect on property and violent crime rates for youth aged 16 to 18 years-old. The results are consistent with an incapacitation effect; school attendance decreases time available for criminal activity.

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Presented in Session 44: Education Policy and Child Well-Being