Feb 28, 2012

Marriage and criminal propensity

Several previous studies have argued that marriage leads to a decline in criminal propensity. Most of these studies have focused on men and have given little attention to the characteristics of their partner and events related to changes in offending. In this article, we use Norwegian registry data to study changes in the criminal propensity for all persons who married between 1995 and 2001 (117,882 women and 120,912 men). We link data on individuals to data on their marital partners and obtain information on partners’ criminal histories. We find that the changes in offending rates related to marriage are anticipatory and strongest for men. The changes in offending vary substantially by partner’s criminal history.
Chart form the paper:
The authors conclude:
. . . [M]arriage is often preceded by lower criminal activity, for both men and women. The rebound after marriage is greater for women, leaving serious doubts over whether marriage represents a lasting influence on criminal activity in women.
. . . The analyses show assortative mating patterns, where those who marry persons with a criminal history are at greater risk of committing crimes themselves.
That is from the new paper "Crime and the transition to marriage: The roles of gender and partner’s criminal involvement" by Monsbakken, Hovde Lyngstad, and Skardhamar (2012)." This paper brings new insights. Consider what the literature says about this issue. See, for example, this paper by Sampson, Laub, and Wimer (2006), that claims " . . . being married is associated with an average reduction of approximately 35 percent in the odds of crime compared to nonmarried states for the same man." One of the classic papers on the effect of marriage on men's behavior is Akerlof's "Man without children" (2001) [alas I did not find a full online version]. His argument is that marriage "domesticates" men and makes them less violent. 
HT: Clarence Nkengne Tsimpo.

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