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Building Criminal Capital Behind Bars: Social Learning in Juvenile Corrections

By Patrick Bayer, Randi Pintoff and David E. Pozen

Abstract

This paper analyzes the influence that juvenile offenders serving time in the same correctional facility have on each other's subsequent criminal behavior. The analysis is based on data on over 8,000 individuals serving time in 169 juvenile correctional facilities during a two-year period in Florida. These data provide a complete record of past crimes, facility assignments, and arrests and adjudications in the year following release for each individual. To control for the non-random assignment of juveniles to facilities, we include facility fixed effects in the analysis. This ensures that the impact of peers on recidivism is identified using only the variation in the length of time that any two individuals serving a sentence in the same facility happen to overlap. We find strong evidence of peer effects for various categories of theft, burglary, and felony drug and weapon crimes; the influence of peers primarily affects individuals who already have some experience in a particular crime category.social learning, peer effects, social interactions, recidivism, juvenile crime, human capital accumulation

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