Feb 4, 2013

Military training and violent crime (Australia)

Combat is the most intense form of military service, but several aspects of the training experience, which explicitly prepares people for violent warfare, are hypothesized to link service to violent crime. Using Australia's Vietnam-era conscription lotteries for identification and criminal court data from Australia's three largest states, we seek to estimate the effect of army training on violent crime. Using various specifications, we find no evidence that military training causes violent crime, and our point estimates are always negative. In our preferred specification (using only non-deployed cohorts), we rule out with 95% confidence any positive violent crime effects larger than 3.6% relative to the mean.
From a new paper by Siminski, Ville, and Paull (January 2013). 
The authros conclude:
Our results have caveats and thus may not necessarily apply in other contexts. In particular, the criminal offense data only cover the study population’s middle-age years. While young males have higher crime rates, we believe that our estimates are precise enough to be meaningful. Nevertheless, we cannot test for crime effects that occur shortly after army service. However, we can rule out any substantial ‘permanent’ effects.
Of course these results are also contingent on the specific context of Australian conscript training. It took place for a period of two years at most, and among men who were mainly 20 years of age when they enlisted. Training involved character shaping with positive as well as potentially negative elements. Training skills were wide, varied, and often unrelated to acts of combat. Even among those not deployed to Vietnam, recruits were prepared for a war of covert counter-insurgency rather than for large scale battles. This training may have been less realistic or desensitizing than in the US, because live rounds and ‘Quick Kill’ training techniques were not used. Australian training also included ‘softer’ pacification skills, motivated by the need for close cooperation with Vietnamese civilians in Australia’s role in the war.

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