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The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence From Prison Inmates

By Lance Lochner and Enrico Moretti


We estimate the effect of education on participation in criminal activity accounting for endogeneity of schooling. We first analyze the effect of schooling on incarceration using Census data and changes in state compulsory attendance laws over time as an instrument for schooling. Changes in these laws have a significant effect on educational achievement, and we reject tests for reverse causality. We find that schooling significantly reduces the probability of incarceration. Differences in educational attainment between black and white men explain 23 % of the blackwhite gap in male incarceration rates. We corroborate our findings on incarceration using FBI data on arrests that distinguish among different types of crimes. The biggest impacts of education are associated with murder, assault, and motor vehicle theft. We also examine the effect of schooling on self-reported crime in the NLSY and find that our estimates for imprisonment and arrest are caused by changes in criminal behavior and not educational differences in the probability of arrest or incarceration conditional on crime. Given the consistency of our estimates, we calculate the social savings from crime reduction associated with high school graduation among men. The externality i

Topics: Is it possible to reduce
Year: 2011
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