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Abstract

There is no more important issue in the economics of the family than the impact of parents on the behavior of their children. By providing rewards and imposing constraints, parents seek to affect their children’s behavior. The explanation of these actions is that the child’s conduct directly enters into the parent’s utility function. In this paper, we use that framework to explore the role of parental control over his or her child’s delinquent behavior. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we estimate the impact of family income and various dimensions of family structure on a youth’s contact with the criminal justice system between the ages of 14 and 22. From this analysis, we conclude that the single most important factor affecting these measures of delinquency is the presence of his father in the home. All other factors, including family income, are much less important.

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