Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Unmarried fertility, crime, and cocial stigma

Kendall, Todd and Tamura, Robert (2008): Unmarried fertility, crime, and cocial stigma.

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Abstract

Children born to unmarried parents may receive lower human capital investments in youth, leading to higher levels of criminal activity as adults. Therefore, unmarried fertility may be positively associated with future crime. On the other hand, in an environment in which social stigma attached to non-marital fertility is high, many low match quality parents will choose (or be forced) to marry, and children reared in these families may actually be worse off than had their parents not married. We explore these effects empirically, finding that over the long run, unmarried fertility is positively associated with murder and property crime, but that the degree of social stigma has affected this relationship. For instance, our results suggest that some marriages in the 1940s and 1950s were of such low quality that the children involved would have been better off in single-parent households; however, this finding is reversed for marriages in the 1960s and thereafter – many marriages that would have benefited children have since been foregone. We also discuss implications for the debate over the “abortion-crime” link of Donohue and Levitt (2001).

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