, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 1177–1202 | Cite as

Life Shocks and Crime: A Test of the “Turning Point” Hypothesis

  • Hope CormanEmail author
  • Kelly Noonan
  • Nancy E. Reichman
  • Ofira Schwartz-Soicher


Other researchers have posited that important events in men’s lives—such as employment, marriage, and parenthood—strengthen their social ties and lead them to refrain from crime. A challenge in empirically testing this hypothesis has been the issue of self-selection into life transitions. This study contributes to this literature by estimating the effects of an exogenous life shock on crime. We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, augmented with information from hospital medical records, to estimate the effects of the birth of a child with a severe health problem on the likelihood that the infant’s father engages in illegal activities. We conduct a number of auxiliary analyses to examine exogeneity assumptions. We find that having an infant born with a severe health condition increases the likelihood that the father is convicted of a crime in the three-year period following the birth of the child, and at least part of the effect appears to operate through work and changes in parental relationships. These results provide evidence that life events can cause crime and, as such, support the “turning point” hypothesis.


Crime Incarceration Turning points Child health 



This research was supported by Grants R01-HD-45630 and R01-HD-35301 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We are grateful for helpful input from Jerry Bentley, Naci Mocan, Alan Monheit, Melinda Pitts, Joy Schneer, and the participants at the economic seminar series at Lafayette College and the University of Medicine and Dentistry School of Public Health, and for valuable assistance from Magdalena Ostatkiewicz, Nicole Boynton, and Prisca Figaro.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hope Corman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kelly Noonan
    • 1
  • Nancy E. Reichman
    • 2
  • Ofira Schwartz-Soicher
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsRider University and National Bureau of Economic ResearchLawrencevilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolUniversity of Medicine and Dentistry of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.School of Social WorkColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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