The effect of education on crime and labor market outcomes

This study examines how the admission success to upper secondary education and participation in the post-compulsory schooling affect crime behavior and labor market outcomes. Each year almost five percent of the cohort graduating from compulsory education fails to receive an offer to upper secondary education in the joint application process. This postpones their enrolment to post-compulsory education and decreases their likelihood of completing any upper secondary degree.

It is well-recognized that individuals with no educational degree are overrepresented among criminals and socially excluded individuals. However, the causality of the relationship between schooling and social exclusion and criminal behavior is difficult to establish. Schooling can be linked to an individual’s criminal behavior and labor market status through various mechanisms. By increasing individuals’ human capital it increases future legitimate work opportunities, patience and risk aversion, which all decrease the likelihood for criminal activity. Entry to schooling can also influence crime rates through an incapacitation effect, since individuals enrolled in school have limited time available for participating in criminal activity.

This study utilizes the discontinuities in the admission probabilities created by the centralized admission system to Finnish upper secondary education to analyze what is the causal effect of receiving an offer, enrolling or finishing post-compulsory schooling on criminal behavior, labor force participation, and earnings.

This research is part of an extensive research project funded by Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland.


Starting year: 2016
Year of completion: 2017
Funding: The Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland