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Intergenerational Dynamics of Crime and Punishment

Randi Hjalmarsson, School of Public Policy

The overall aim of this project is to obtain a better understanding of the intergenerational dynamics of crime and punishment.  
More specifically, the study intends to answer the following questions: (i) What is the relationship between father and son criminality? What mechanisms, i.e. nature versus nurture, underlie this relationship? (ii) Are intergenerational correlations observed when studying alcohol abuse and drunk driving? (iii) How does incarcerating a father impact his children, in terms of their criminal behavior, education outcomes, and labor market outcomes? The empirical strategies used to answer these questions will vary from one topic to another. For instance, in studying intergenerational criminal and alcohol correlations,  the study will begin with raw correlations.  It will then control for social background and ability to disentangle whether the relationship is causal and the underlying mechanism.  Lastly,  samples of twins and adoptees will be utilized to be able to say more about the nature versus nurture questions.  In studying the effect of father’s incarceration on his children, child outcomes will be regressed, such as crime, on whether the father was incarcerated.  However, even with a vast set of controls, unobservable heterogeneity is a concern in this context. As a first step to dealing with this concern, the study will try to come up with an appropriate comparison group. One possibility is to compare children of incarcerated fathers to children of fathers who were convicted of crimes but not incarcerated or to fathers who were incarcerated before the child is born.