Education and Crime

There are many arguments in favor of the theory that criminal behavior is influenced by schooling. Numerous studies have reached this conclusion after analyzing the idea that schooling reduces criminal propensity. For instance, Harlow (2003) emphasized the fact that more than two-thirds of inmates in the United States in 1997 were high school graduates. Formal schooling unintentionally influences criminal activity in three different ways: patience or risk aversion, time availability, and income effects. In as much as it might seem that the factors mentioned above depict an adverse impact of education on crime, this paper will outline how they ensure that education curbs prevalence of crime.

According to Lochner and Moretti (2004), since schooling affects patience and risk aversion, there was a likelihood that it could affect crime. This point of view is premised on the fact that attaining some education imparts a sense of patience in order to receive a future reward. The education system has been designed in a manner that requires a student a lot of patience to meet their objectives in life. In most cases, people have to work hard for very many years from elementary school all the way to college before they can finally land their dream job. However, people who lack patience as one of their values in life, are less likely to succeed in life when compared to their counterparts.

Furthermore, research has proved that some of the school dropouts forfeit their education because they lack the much-needed foresight to preempt the benefits of school (Oreopoulos, 2007). The things that these myopic dropouts look at are the struggles associated with school such as having to attend long boring classes or studying and having to be evaluated (Oreopoulos, 2007). This lack of patience consequently increases the propensity to criminal activities because most of the dropouts hardly have the drive to build a business from scratch and watch it grow. Moreover, the category of dropouts mentioned above is less likely to nurture their talents and tap into their potential. Embracing education gradually conditions an individual to become more patient in life, and this virtue reduces the likelihood of committing crimes. Other than training people to become patient, education can increase risk aversion (Becker and Mulligan, 1997). This is because being literate makes one understand the ramifications of their actions and this knowledge might deter them from engaging in crime.

In some cases, criminal activities are carried out not because people are in dire need of some income but as a result of idleness. It is often best to ensure that people keep themselves occupied to limit the possibilities of thinking of trying out any criminal activity. Education is usually a viable option that people can explore so that they can be engrossed in learning activities. The time that students dedicate to studying curbs any available time that one could have thought of using to take part in crime. Hansen (2003) pointed out that "ensuring that youngsters are at school keeps them off the streets."

An individual who has just been released from prison can decide to occupy himself learning a new skill, and this will lower their chance of being rearrested. The effect of education on time spent in crime can vividly be highlighted through the incapacitation effect which provides that a person cannot be in multiple places at a given time. Therefore when people are engrossed in their studies, they usually tend to focus their energy there, and this likely reduces crime (Jacobs and Lefregren, 2003). The relevant stakeholders in the criminal justice system can put in place school curriculums for offenders suffering from mental illnesses in order to keep them occupied.

In the long run, these initiatives will reduce the high rate of recidivism among mentally ill offenders. This curriculum should however not be designed to mirror the conventional school set up where these mentally ill offenders converge to gain their education. It can be set up in a manner which limits the interaction between students since Jacobs and Lefregren (2003) argued that school exacerbates violent offenses as a result of social influence from other students. The same other pointed out that the same school model lowers property crimes.

There are also some income effects that come about as a result of education. An individual who has gone to school tends to be more marketable and fetches higher gains when compared to a person who is not learned. This in effect raises the educated person's opportunity costs for crime. Lochner (2004) pointed out that increasing future wage rates by implementing subsidies that foster investment in human capital inadvertently leads to a reduction in crime. People who are engaged in meaningful employment detest crime since they understand that once they are arrested, they will end up losing out on the available opportunities (Lochner & Moretti, 2004).

There is also a very strong correlation between prevalence of crime and wage rates. Grogger (1998) argued that gaining formal education decreases the likelihood of engaging in crime. Moreover, it was noted that crime among the youth was mostly influenced by a decline in the compensation that the youths receive. This essentially means that where jobs are available, and they are able to sustain the workforce, people will be stop being lured to engage in crime. Education can be utilized to improve human capital and the overall productivity in the market and these, in turn, would curb the level of crime.


In light of the foregoing, it seems that education is a very vital factor in the reduction of criminal behavior. As mentioned in the text above, schooling enables people to avoid risks associated with crime, improves one's patience and positively impacts on the possible income that an individual might gain. It would, therefore, be a prudent and proactive strategy to focus on educating the mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system in order to decrease the likelihood of reoffending. Due to their condition, the conventional classroom set up might not be conducive to them. In its place, they can be taught some technical skills that will keep them preoccupied and in the long run be able to either seek employment opportunities or become self-employed. This will increase the working populace and also deter recidivism among the mentally ill in the country. This category of offenders has almost been completely sidelined, and it is necessary to come up with innovative ideas of punishing, rehabilitating and reconciling them with the society. Instituting a learning regime for them will be a positive step in meeting these objectives.


Becker, G. S., & Mulligan, C. B. (1997). The endogenous determination of time preference.

The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(3), 729-758.

Grogger, J. (1998). Market wages and youth crime. Journal of labor Economics, 16(4), 756


Hansen, K. (2003). Education and the crime‐age profile. British Journal of Criminology,

43(1), 141-168.

Harlow, C. W. (2003). Education and Correctional Populations. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Special Report.

Jacob, B. A., & Lefgren, L. (2003). Are idle hands the devil's workshop? Incapacitation,

concentration, and juvenile crime. The American Economic Review, 93(5), 1560-1577.

Lochner, L. (2004). Education, work, and crime: A human capital approach. International

Economic Review, 45(3), 811-843.

Lochner, L. J., & Moretti, E. (2004). The effect of education on crime: evidence from prison

inmates, arrests, and self-reports. The American Economic Review, 94, 155-189.

Oreopoulos, P. (2007). Do dropouts drop out too soon? Wealth, health and happiness from

compulsory schooling. Journal of public Economics, 91(11), 2213-2229.

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