Crime and Circumstance: The Effects of Infant Health Shocks on Fathers’ Criminal Activity

Hope Corman, Rider University and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Kelly Noonan, Rider University and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Nancy E. Reichman, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Ofira Schwarz-Soicher, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Studies in the economics literature have evaluated the effects of economic conditions on criminal behavior, but few have linked individuals’ criminal behavior to their personal circumstances. A change in circumstances, such as a natural or personal disaster, could reduce or sever a person’s connections to his/her family, job, or community. With fewer connections, crime may become a more attractive option. This study addresses the question of whether an exogenous shock in life circumstances affects criminal activity. Specifically, we estimate the effects of the birth of a child with a serious health problem (versus the birth of a healthy infant) on the likelihood that the child’s father becomes or remains involved in illegal activities. We examine the effects of infant health conditions that are believed to be random events on the probability that the father is convicted or incarcerated after the birth of the child, holding constant his prenatal criminal activity.

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Presented in Poster Session 2