Does Eligibility for Tertiary Education Affect Crime Rates? Quasi-Experimental Evidence

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Objectives: This paper estimates the effect of tertiary education eligibility on crime in Sweden. The hypothesis tested is that continuing to higher education decreases crime rates since it allows young people to escape inactivity and idleness, which are known to trigger crime. However, to qualify for tertiary education, individuals have to meet the eligibility requirements in upper-secondary school. Tertiary education eligibility may therefore affect crime rates. Methods: This paper uses a panel data set of 287 Swedish municipalities over the period 1998–2010 to estimate the tertiary education eligibility effect on crime. However, estimating educational effects on crime is challenging, because investment in education is an endogenous decision. In Sweden, substantial grade inflation, increased tertiary education eligibility by more than 6% points between 1998 and 2003. Thus, since the eligibility increase is exogenous to the educational achievements of a student cohort, i.e. not accompanied by a corresponding knowledge increase, we can use the increase to identify the effect of tertiary education eligibility on crime. Results: It is found that increasing the tertiary education eligibility rate decreases both property and violent crime substantially. Conclusions: The results show that when young people have the opportunity to attend tertiary education, and thus escape unemployment or inactivity, their propensity to commit crime decreases.


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Sociologi (exklusive socialt arbete, socialpsykologi och socialantropologi)


Sidor (från-till)805-829
TidskriftJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Utgåva nummer3
Tidigt onlinedatum2017 maj 19
StatusPublished - 2018 sep
Peer review utfördJa