ONE FOOT IN, ONE FOOT OUT: TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING THE LEGAL AND ILLEGAL WORK OVERLAP
Loughran, Thomas A
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Extant literature investigating the relationship between legal and illegal work is expansive, spanning various disciplines using a wide array of methodological specifications. Despite this expansiveness legal and illegal work has traditionally been viewed as tradeoffs whereby legal work is seen as a catalyst to moving away from illegal work. However, bifurcation of legal and illegal work captures only one facet of the relationship between the two. For example, participating in legal and illegal work contemporaneously has been discussed by a number of scholars and has been observed in empirical studies. But detailed investigation into the legal and illegal overlap has been scant. By using the Pathways to Desistance Study, there were three main goals of the current study. The first goal was to document the heterogeneous patterns of legal and illegal work and how they overlap over time. Second, I examined if legal economic opportunities were associated with membership in illegal work trajectories, conditional on membership in legal work trajectories. The third goal was to consider if the legal and illegal overlap was associated with key criminal career dimensions: frequency of offending and offending variety. Results showed that there are heterogeneous patterns in both legal work and illegal work and the way in which they were linked. There was some support for the relationship between legal economic opportunities and membership in a higher illegal work group. The legal and illegal overlap was associated with a lower frequency of offending and endorsement of fewer types of instrumental crimes. Results were discussed in terms of implications for theory and future research.