Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 25–49 | Cite as

New Evidence on the Monetary Value of Saving a High Risk Youth

  • Mark A. CohenEmail author
  • Alex R. Piquero
Original Paper


There is growing interest in crime prevention through early youth interventions; yet, the standard United States response to the crime problem, particularly among juveniles, has been to increase the use and resource allocation allotted toward punishment and incapacitation and away from prevention and treatment. At the same time, longitudinal studies of delinquency and crime have repeatedly documented a strong link between past and future behavior and have identified a small subset of offenders who commit a large share of criminal offenses. These findings suggest that if these offenders can be identified early and correctly and provided with prevention and treatment resources early in the life course, their criminal activity may be curtailed. While researchers have studied these offenders in great detail, little attention has been paid to the costs they exert on society. This paper provides estimates of the cost of crime imposed on society by high risk youth. Our approach follows and builds upon the early framework and basic methodology developed by Cohen (J Quant Criminol 14: 5–33, 1998), by using new estimates of the costs of individual crimes, ones that are more comprehensive and that significantly increased the monetary cost per crime. We also use new estimates on the underlying offending rate for high risk juvenile offenders. We estimate the present value of saving a 14-year-old high risk juvenile from a life of crime to range from $2.6 to $5.3 million. Similarly, saving a high risk youth at birth would save society between $2.6 and $4.4 million.


Costs of crime Criminal careers Crime policy 



The authors gratefully acknowledge funding for this research from YouthBuild USA through a grant from the Skoll Foundation. Mark Cohen also acknowledges support from the Dean’s Fund for Summer Research, Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of ManagementNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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