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 uses the population of offenders to study 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. 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. For the purposes of this study, I have access to cohorts born between 1991 and 1996 (inclusive). Using a difference-in-differences estimation, I find that the treated cohorts commit more crimes per year and recidivate more often. I also find that the treated cohorts commit a greater proportion of person offences and drug offences. However, they do commit a lower proportion of property offences. To understand the impact of the MSLA on the offending rates in NSW, I combine the ROD with the 2011 Australian census. I use an instrumental variables approach where I use the change in the MSLA to predict the proportion of children in school for each local government area and birth-cohort combination. I find a 10 percent increase in the proportion in school is associated with a 6.5 percent decline in the proportion of offenders. Additionally, a 10 percent increase in the proportion in school is associated with an 8.9 percent decline in the proportion of person offences. Thus, I conclude that the change in the minimum school leaving age does lower the offending rates. However, the offenders in the treated cohorts commit more crimes and recidivate more often.
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