The Connection Between Crime and Education

Posted on November 1, 2019

Crime is often not about race, mental illness, or gender. More prominently, it is about the level of education. There have been many studies on the connection between crime and education, and most of them indicate a strong link. This is especially evident in the United States of America. Its public education is not competitive in terms of other major world countries, and out of any other first-world nation, the U.S. has the most school shootings. In terms of deaths by firearms, only Brazil has a higher mortality rate at gunpoint than the U.S. in the world. Countries like Brazil do not have the economic power and the developed criminal justice laws that the U.S. has (Lopez, German). So, why is the U.S. consistently second or first in the world for shootings? One major factor is the level of public education there.

Graduating rates and crime

It has been stated by numerous studies that crime could be curtailed if graduation rates pick up. In particular, Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and president for the Alliance for Excellent Education, says that, “The nation needs to focus dollars and efforts on reforming school climates to keep students engaged in ways that will lead them toward college and a career and away from crime and prison. The school-to-prison pipeline starts and ends with schools” (“Crime Rates Linked To Educational Attainment, 2013 Alliance Report Finds”). This report also projected that criminal cases would drop in the thousands with just a five percent increase in the male high school graduation rate.

Correlation between school leaving age and crime

It has been shown that increasing the legal school leaving age in states in the U.S. has been instrumental in reducing crime. In particular, a research study by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics states, “The reported results considered so far show a strong negative effect on arrest rates from school leaving age reforms. This operates both at the time an individual’s behaviour is directly impacted by the policy, and also in subsequent years when they are not. The former effect is likely to be a result of incapacitation – a young person is constrained to remain in school, so they have less free time to allocate to crime” (Bell, Brain, et al.). The last sentence of this quotation is vital: the youth need their attention on productive activities and have enough responsibilities in order to not allow them to have the time and leisure to carry out crimes. Lethargy, boredom, and distraction are all vices that can lead to arrests and jail time for young people in the U.S.

Education changes the thinking of criminals

Being a criminal is often a mental state. If a person who commits illegal acts changes his or her mentality, there is a high likelihood that further infractions will decrease by his or her hand. With proper education, potential criminals and those who already commit illicit behavior can reverse the psychological state they have developed. This has been directly shown in prisons, where inmates who received tailored education were less likely to complete offenses after being released (Folk, Johanna B., et al.).

Though the reduction of crime is a complex issue around the world, and especially in the U.S., receiving a good education has been shown through multiple studies to have a strong effect on keeping or deterring people from committing illegal acts. In particular, the increase in high school graduation rates, raising the school leaving age in individual states, and tailoring learning for potential or existing criminals is effective in reducing illegal acts.

Works Cited
Bell, Brain, et al. “Why Does Education Reduce Crime?” Discussion Paper Series. The IZA Institute of Labor Economics. Sept. 2018. PDF.
“Crime Rates Linked To Educational Attainment, 2013 Alliance Report Finds.” Alliance For Excellent Education,
Folk, Johanna B., et al. “Effectiveness of a Self-Administered Intervention for Criminal Thinking: Taking a Chance on Change.” Psychological Services, vol. 13, no. 3, 2016, pp. 272–282., doi:10.1037/ser0000079.
Lopez, German. “America Is One of 6 Countries That Make up More than Half of Gun Deaths Worldwide.” Vox, Vox, 29 Aug. 2018,

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