An Economic Analysis of the Causes and Mechanisms of Juvenile Delinquency: An Empirical Study of the French Evidence

Lorraine Tournyol Du Clos, INED

The published figures show that the population of juvenile delinquents in France has been steadily rising at an unprecedented rate since 1993. The economics of crime offers the tools to give a realistic and persuasive explanation as the basis for understanding and controlling the causes and mechanisms of the problem. This is an entirely new approach in France, and the body of work done in other specialised fields (sociology, criminology, psychology), as a serious demographic analysis has been drawn on to make the case for the basis of the proposed model development. The range of models developed in the 30-plus years since Becker (1968) now offers ways of factoring in a wide array of features and attributes. From this, two key propositions are put into sharp focus: that there are different forms of offending, and that risk factors act indirectly through a copycat mechanism on juvenile people not prima facie members of this risk group. Then, a ground-breaking "social interactions" econometric model adapted from EHRLICH (1973) and GLAESER's (1996) model was then used to measure and rank the causes and mechanisms of youth crime using data from 242 municipalities in France.

Data and Methods Used: Data from 242 municipalities in France during 5 years (1995 to 1999). Econometric method of two least squares (2LS) regression.

Results: Results consists at first, in presenting an analysis of juvenile delinquency, and more precisely the weight of theoretical risk factors in each of the twelve French juvenile delinquency's forms development. Otherwise, the analysis goes through different sorts of risk factors: those which never occur in our study (is there any explanation?), those which appear linked to one only or few forms of juvenile delinquency (what have they in common?). Then, risk factors which often take place in the juvenile delinquency's mechanisms are, at their turn, interpreted. And, a last part treat of some conceivable political actions, depending to the risk factor's nature and the juvenile delinquency's form which seems to be fought as a priority.

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Updated 05/20/2006