Inequality of Opportunity and Juvenile Crime

Produced by: 
Universidad de Chile
Available from: 
September 2021
Paper author(s): 
Alejandro Bayas
Nicolás Grau
Topic: 
Conflict, Crime and Violence
Poverty - Inequality - Aid Effectiveness
Year: 
2021

To what extent should young people be normatively held responsible for committing a crime? To contribute to this debate, we study the role of inequality of opportunity in juvenile crime behavior. Drawing on Roemer’s theoretical framework and using administrative data from Chile, we empirically evaluate how much of the responsibility for the crime was determined by structural factors (i.e., circumstances) and how much was determined by decisions taken by the perpetrator (i.e., agency). Overall, we find evidence of substantial inequality of opportunity in this context. Specifically, we find that the contribution of circumstances varies between 46.44% and 32.10%, when explaining crime among males. As a benchmark analysis, we find that the role of circumstances in high school completion is less relevant than in criminal behavior, with levels between 34.80% and 18.54%. Finally, our study contradicts previous literature— suggesting that a different conception of equality of opportunity does change the conclusion regarding the relative contribution of agency versus circumstances.

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Research section: 
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