Alcohol Use and Crime: Findings from a Longitudinal Sample of U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults

Authors

  • Ioana Popovici,

    1. From the Department of Sociobehavioral and Administrative Pharmacy (IP), College of Pharmacy, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Health Economics Research Group (JFH), Sociology Research Center, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida; Department of Health Systems, Management, and Policy (HF), Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado; and Health Economics Research Group (MTF), Department of Sociology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Department of Economics, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
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  • Jenny F. Homer,

    1. From the Department of Sociobehavioral and Administrative Pharmacy (IP), College of Pharmacy, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Health Economics Research Group (JFH), Sociology Research Center, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida; Department of Health Systems, Management, and Policy (HF), Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado; and Health Economics Research Group (MTF), Department of Sociology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Department of Economics, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
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  • Hai Fang,

    1. From the Department of Sociobehavioral and Administrative Pharmacy (IP), College of Pharmacy, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Health Economics Research Group (JFH), Sociology Research Center, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida; Department of Health Systems, Management, and Policy (HF), Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado; and Health Economics Research Group (MTF), Department of Sociology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Department of Economics, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
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  • Michael T. French

    1. From the Department of Sociobehavioral and Administrative Pharmacy (IP), College of Pharmacy, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Health Economics Research Group (JFH), Sociology Research Center, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida; Department of Health Systems, Management, and Policy (HF), Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado; and Health Economics Research Group (MTF), Department of Sociology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Department of Economics, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
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Reprint requests: Michael T. French, Professor of Health Economics, Department of Sociology, University of Miami, 5202 University Drive, Merrick Building, Room 121F, PO Box 248162, Coral Gables, FL 33124-2030; Tel.: 305-284-6039; Fax: 305-284-5310; E-mail: mfrench@miami.edu

Abstract

Background:  A positive relationship between alcohol use and criminal activity has been well documented among adults, but fewer studies explore this relationship among adolescents.

Methods:  Using data from 4 waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), we examine alcohol use patterns and criminal activity from adolescence to young adulthood. Fixed-effects models partially address the potential endogeneity of alcohol use, and, because numerous studies indicate that males are more likely than females to engage in drinking and criminal activity, the analyses are segmented by gender.

Results:  We find a strong positive relationship between alcohol consumption, the commission of crimes, and criminal victimization for both genders. Various sensitivity analyses and robustness checks support this core finding.

Conclusions:  Our results have important policy implications, as public policy tools that aim to reduce drinking among adolescents could also reduce criminal activity. Moreover, effective alcohol abuse treatment may indirectly reduce delinquency and thus have greater long-term economic benefits than previously estimated.

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