Building criminal capital behind bars: Peer effects in juvenile corrections
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This paper analyzes the influence that juvenile offenders serving time in the same correctional facility have on each other's subsequent criminal behavior. The analysis is based on data on over 8,000 individuals serving time in 169 juvenile correctional facilities during a two-year period in Florida. These data provide a complete record of past crimes, facility assignments, and arrests and adjudications in the year following release for each individual. Tb control for the nonrandom assignment to facilities, we include facility and facility-by-prior-offense fixed effects, thereby estimating peer effects using only within-facility variation over time. We find strong evidence of peer effects for burglary, petty larceny, felony and misdemeanor drug offenses, aggravated assault, and felony sex offenses. The influence of peers primarily affects individuals who already have some experience in a particular crime category. We also find evidence that the predominant types of peer effects differ in residential versus nonresidential facilities; effects in the latter are consistent with network formation among youth serving time close to home. © 2009 by the President and fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.