Exploring the Relationship Between Educational Attainment and Arrest
Kamerdze, Amy Sariti
McGloin, Jean M
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The Forgotten Half are the segment of the population in the United States aged 16-24 who do not pursue postsecondary education. Several negative outcomes are associated with this group, including an increased risk of criminal behavior. Most research has focused on the relationship between dropping out and offending. However, heterogeneity in educational attainment exists within this group, and it is not clear whether this variation in amount of education is related to variation in offending rates. Furthermore, while a strong correlation exists between the Forgotten Half and crime, the mechanisms responsible for this relationship are less clear. Social control theory argues that the stronger an individual’s social bonds are, the fewer crimes he or she will commit. Higher levels of educational attainment are expected to be inversely related with arrest rates. Identity theory argues that the strength of one’s identity, present and future, will affect his or her offending rates. This dissertation uses the first 14 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) to examine the relationship between educational attainment and arrest. Regressions were run to assess the effect of educational attainment on arrest for the Forgotten Half, as well as by gender and racial and ethnic group. Results from these zero-inflated negative binomial (ZINB) regressions confirm a relationship, with dropouts being arrested the most, high school graduates the least, and stopouts falling in the middle. Results for both childhood social control theory and identity theory models found that inclusion of concepts from these theories weakened the relationship between stopping out and arrest so much that the relationship became insignificant. Dropping out, on the other hand, was only slightly affected by the addition of these theoretical constructs. The relationship between dropping out and arrest was diminished more by the inclusion of theoretical variables measured during adulthood. The dissertation also considers the theoretical and policy implications of these findings.