Crime and Motivation: How research from criminology, peace education and economics can influence one’s involvement in criminal activity

by TL13 on May 11, 2015 - 11:05pm

This semester, I have been writing a lot about crimes happening around the world. It is something that seems to really interest me since I have asked myself this plenty of times, what drives someone to commit a crime knowing that it always comes with repercussions? For example, many of my articles talked about criminals who seemed to not really think things through. Leaving the scene in a hurry in a getaway car and not knowing what to do after. The plan seems so planned out, but once it is done, that is when things usually get complicated for them. So, I have asked myself what might have led some criminals to do such thing. That is when I decided to write about whether education has a major impact on someone’s engagement in criminal activity. I believe this links to most of my journal articles because in those articles, the criminal’s past would never be brought up. We have no clue about their background and if they either had a choice or not to engage in criminal activity.


With the help of three academic journals, this paper will help prove that education does have a major impact on crime. The first academic journal is ‘Education and Crime’ by Lance Lochner, the second one is ‘The Crime Reducing Effect of Education’ by Sarah Machin, Olivier Marie and Suncica Vujic and the third one is ‘The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports’ by Lance Lochner and Enrico Moretti. In those three academic articles, the three academic disciplines that will be the focus of this paper is the study of criminology, peace education and socio-economics.

To begin, the academic journal articles explore the possible relationship between education and crime. They focus on the youth who do not have a good education and how they are more likely to engage in criminal activity. Studies show that one can expect a “negative correlation between crime and education” (Lochner & Moretti 2). The less education one has or the less risk averse they are, the more likely they are going to engage in criminal activity.

Something that needs to be taken into consideration is that most youth will only enroll in school if there is a net benefit or some kind of reward from doing so. However, since higher lifetime benefits come only later in life, some impatient individuals might not want to attend school and will most likely engage in criminal activity as opposed to more patient youth (Lochner 3). Not only does patience have a major impact on someone’s decision to attend school or not, but so does a person’s risk aversion. Researchers believe that risk averse youth are more likely to not engage in criminal activity (4). Another impact is that youth will have the choice at an early age to decide whether or not they want an education or to engage in crime. So, with that, the ones who do want to engage in crime will most likely drop out of school at a young age; therefore, creating the negative correlation between the two (7). Finally, economically, education is the key to reducing crime and the costs associated with criminal activity (Lochner & Moretti 1). After reading this paper, it might not be as easy to be against preventing high school dropouts.

First off, with criminology – the scientific study of crime that includes its causes and methods of prevention (Crowe 2) – when someone commits a crime, they can expect a punishment. If a crime has a low cost of crime, the chances of criminals committing that crime are high. “A lower incarceration probability encourages crime, which reduces the value of education” (Lochner 4). So, with a high punishment, the ones with an education will not want to engage in the crime. Also, people attending school might not have as much time to spend on participating in criminal activity and if so, that means less chances of it being a well thought out plan. The same goes for if they were to commit a crime, the amount of time they would spend being punished is too great that it will “increase the likelihood of them becoming a high school dropout” (Machin, Marie & Vujic 465). Researchers believe that incarceration does have a negative effect on the culprit. It is said that those youth who are incarcerated are 25% less likely to complete high school (Lochner 11). For example, some schools have a requirement where they need to be notified if one of their students committed a crime. With that, it could lead teachers to treat them differently and that could be a reason to why the students drop out (11).

So when it comes to the study of criminology, it is said that education is a method of prevention since schooling might help individuals socialize in a way that they would not want to engage in crime. ‘Socialize’ meaning that schools will teach the students how to be better people overall and how they should treat other individuals. So, a study was done with the help of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and it supports that education does reduce violent crimes (Lochner 10). In other words, the study of criminology supports this method of prevention; youth in school are less likely to engage in crime as opposed to youth not enrolled in school (Lochner 3).

Second of all, schooling increases the chances of having a good future job and can also help youth socialize with others better. “Education can also teach individuals to be more patient […] and more risk averse” (Lochner 3). What this means is that some individuals might feel discouraged to engage in crime since they will be more knowledgeable about the consequences associated with criminal activity. So, when it comes to peace education – a process that empowers learners with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and behaviors necessary to promote peace (What Is Peace Education 1) – patience and risk averse are the two main attitudes/behaviors and values that schooling will teach them (Lochner & Moretti 30). “Those skills are likely to directly affect both schooling and criminal decisions” (Lochner 6). Meaning that most individuals who choose education over crime will most likely not choose crime regardless of whether they are educated at a high level or not.

In other words, education has a big influence on someone’s behavior, which may alter their decision, in an indirect way, on whether or not they will engage in criminal activity (Lochner & Moretti 1). For example, adolescents lack reasoning skills and are more inclined to have a risky behavior, so by attending school, they will be taught how to act certain ways and it can also increase their patience and risk aversion (Machin, Marie & Vujic 465). With that being said, the skills and behaviors taught by the school reduces crime in a way that it can generate social benefits that will decrease their chances of engaging in criminal activity (479).

Third of all, when it comes to economics, or to be more specific socioeconomics – the study having to do with the intersection between economy and society, and how the economy can affect the society – preventing crimes is more beneficial. Education has a positive effect when it comes to income and it also is beneficial for those who are looking for a good future job that has a high income/wage rate (Machin, Marie & Vujic 464). Also, economically, education does mean fewer crimes in the society. In fact, if there was a 1% increase in the high school completion rate, the society can save up to $1.4 billion a year for not having to do much damage control after a crime (Lochner & Moretti 31). To be more specific, about $2,100 could be salvaged per student that continues their education (3). Overall, education increases wage rates for individuals and that leads to an increase in the opportunity costs of crime. In other words, if someone were to commit a crime, it would require a lot of their time and that means they will not be able to really focus on their work; therefore, it is an increase in their opportunity costs of crime (Lochner 2). Opportunity cost is when one must give up something to forgo something else (Opportunity Cost Examples 1). Also, each crime committed does come with an expected time of incarceration, so that is more costly for individuals with higher wages (Lochner 2). The more time spent in prison, the less time they have to work and so the more chances they are likely to drop out of school or commit another crime.

Since education does increase the future wage rates of individuals, it reduces the chances of youth dropping out of school and so the ones in school are less likely to engage in criminal activity (Lochner 3). Researchers believe that education does have a negative correlation with crime because the people who do not attend school and who spend more time engaging in crime will not benefit from the increased wages (4). Not benefiting from that will affect them in a way that they have fewer job opportunities and so, some people will see crime as a solution.

All in all, education does have a major influence on whether someone will engage in criminal activity or not, however, it also depends on their surroundings at school. Youth who drop out of school might be influenced by their peers to engage in criminal activity; they might even be the ones to encourage them to drop out of school (Lochner 4). With that being said, education might not be the one factor that has a major impact, but it does have a negative correlation with crime.

These three academic journal articles all have similar arguments but they can all be approached differently when it comes to the three academic disciplines. The skills and behaviors one can learn at school can decrease the likelihood of someone engaging in crime and so can knowing the causes of one dropping out of school. Education has proven to be a safer bet for the economy and the society. Researchers believe that education can reduce crime in an indirect way through increased wage rates.


Finally, these academic journal articles link to most of my news articles that I have been writing during the semester in a way that not everything is “black or white”. Most of the times, things are not going to be obvious or straight forward, but with a little research, just like in my case, education can be a major factor to why many crimes are being committed nowadays.


Works Cited

Crowe, Earl. "What Is Criminology? - Definition, History & Theories." Web. 9 May 2015.

Jackson, Gregory. "Socio-Economic Review." Oxford Journals. Web. 10 May 2015.

Lochner, Lance. "Education and Crime." University of Western Ontario, December 13, 2007. Web. 11 May 2015.


Machin, Sarah, Olivier Marie, and Suncica Vujic. "The Crime Reducing Effect of Education." The Economic Journal. Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA. Web. 11 May 2015.

"Opportunity Cost Examples." YourDictionary. Web. 11 May 2015.

"What Is Peace Education?" Teachers Without Borders. Web. 10 May 2015.