School to Work Trajectories From Age 14 to Age 18 Using the NLSY97: Are Patterns of Work During Adolescence Associated With Offending and Other Salient Life Outcomes?

Shawn D. Bushway, University of Maryland at College Park
Raymond Paternoster, University of Maryland at College Park
Robert Brame, University of South Carolina
Robert Apel, University of Maryland at College Park

There are large literatures examining the impact of work on crime in both adult (Fagan and Freeman 1999) and adolescent (Steinberg and Cauffman 1995) contexts, but most consider the impact of a job or working in a given time period on criminal offending in the same or proximate time period. Yet, work, especially during adolescence, is much more than what the individual is doing in the workforce in a given week, or even year. Adolescents are engaged in a process by which they move from complete involvement in the world of school to complete involvement in the world of work. The nature of this process, sometimes referred to as the school-to-work transition, could plausibly have a causal impact on the criminal offending of individuals. For example, some researchers have suggested that a precocious transition to work, especially work of more than 20 hours a week, will lead to premature detachment from school, and altered life outcomes including increased crime. Others have suggested that experience with work in high school lead to better life outcomes in young adulthood. In this paper, we use the rich work history data from the NLSY97 data set to perform three separate tasks. First, we will use the semi-parametric trajectory method (Nagin and Land 1993) to identify discrete trajectories of work during the school year from age 14 to 18. This exercise makes it clear that the school to work transition is not the same experience for everyone. Second, we will attempt to identify factors measured at ages 14-15 which might predict which trajectory an individual will take. This, we will examine correlations beteween these trajectories of work and life outcoems like school, work, crime and family life at ages 18-19. This last step is the first step towards a more causal analysis of how the school to work transition is associated with the process of offending over the life course.

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Updated 05/20/2006