We need to do a better job conveying the importance of marriage and children
There's a general assumption in public policy discourse that economic policy and social policy are separate universes.
When economic policy is the topic, we think about taxes, government spending, business, jobs, etc. When social policy is the topic, we think about marriage, family, children, abortion, etc.
But, in reality, the line between economic policy and social policy is ambiguous, if it exists at all.
In recent years, for instance, family structure has gotten increasing attention as an important factor to consider in policy discussions about poverty.
Now we have a new academic paper by economists -- Maxim Massenkoff and Evan Rose, both doctoral candidates in economics at the University of California, Berkeley -- that makes it even clearer that what we generally think of as social policy can fall into the realm of economic analysis.
The paper -- "Family Formation and Crime" -- examines the connection between the incidence of pregnancy, childbirth and marriage, and the incidence of crime.
The conclusion, in the words of the authors: "Our event-study analysis indicates that pregnancy triggers sharp declines in crime rivaling any known intervention. For mothers, criminal offending drops precipitously in the first few months of pregnancy, stabilizing at half of pre-pregnancy levels three years after the birth. Men show a smaller, but still important 25 percent decline beginning at the onset of pregnancy, although domestic violence arrests spike for fathers immediately after birth."
Marriage, according to the authors, "is a stopping point, marking the completion of a roughly 50 percent decline in offending for both men and women."
The analysis, again per the authors, is "by far the largest such study ever conducted in the United States." They tapped information on over a million births and, using data in the state of Washington, matched records on "criminal offenses, births, marriages, and divorces."
George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok discusses the work on his enormously popular blog, Marginal Revolution.