What effect did the revised minimum school leaving age have on crime in New South Wales, Australia?

Ms Shubhi Sharma1

1Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

This paper studies the impact of a change in the minimum school leaving age (MSLA) in 2010 on crime in New South Wales, Australia. In 2010, the minimum school leaving age increased from 15 to 17 years. This study uses information for the cohorts born between 1993 and 1996 (inclusive); where the 1993 and 1994 cohorts serve as control cohorts, while the 1995 and 1996 cohorts serve as treated cohorts. The Reoffending database (ROD) contains the criminal histories and demographic information of all offenders in New South Wales who were born in 1984 or after. To understand the impact of the MSLA on the offending rates in NSW, the ROD is combined with the 2011 Australian census. The change in the MSLA, serves as an instrumental variable and predicts the proportion of children in school for each local government area and birth-cohort combination. This paper finds a 10 per cent increase in the proportion in school is associated with a 10.7 per cent decline in the proportion of offenders and a 13.8 per cent decline in the proportion of person offences. It also finds a significant reduction in the proportion of total, property and drug offences. Thus, the increase in the minimum school leaving age did have a significant effect on reducing the occurrence of offences among the treated cohorts. Using a panel event study estimation, this study focuses on the offending behaviour of individuals who have had an interaction with the NSW Criminal Justice System. The offending behaviours of the treated and control cohorts are not significantly different. Thus, I conclude that the change in the minimum school leaving age does lower the offending rates. However, the offenders in the treated cohorts and control cohorts do not show different offending behaviour.


Ms Shubhi Sharma is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Research School of Economics at the Australian National University. Her thesis focuses on applied microeconomics, particularly on the quality differences between the public versus private provision of juvenile facilities, the relationship between education and crime, and discrimination in the Australian labour market. She holds a BA in Economics and Mathematics, and a BA (Hons) in Economics from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Prior to commencing her doctoral studies, she worked at the Centre for Research on the Economics of Ageing at the Singapore Management University.


Aug 30 2021


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