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New paper in Quarterly Economic Journal shows that withdrawing cash benefits from children when they reach the age of 18 significantly increases the chances that they will face criminal justice in the coming years.

Supplemental Security Income is a program of the United States that provides benefits to people with disabilities who have low incomes. Children are eligible to participate in the program based on their disability status and parents low income and assets. Until 1996 children automatically continued to qualify for the adult program when they turned 18, when their income did not increase.

As part of changes to U.S. social security programs in 1996, the U.S. Social Security Administration began reviewing children who received SSI when they turned 18 using various eligibility criteria for adult health care. The Social Security Administration began removing about 40% of children who received assistance when they turned 18 years old. This process disproportionately removes children with mental and behavioral illnesses such as attention deficit /hyperactivity syndrome.

Using data from the Social Security Administration and the criminal justice system, the researchers assessed the impact of the loss of additional security income at age 18 on criminal justice and employment outcomes over the next two decades. By comparing the records of children who turned 18 after the social security reform was introduced on August 22, 1996, and those who were born earlier (who were admitted to the adult program without examination), the researchers were able to assess the impact of the loss on the lives of affected youth.

They found that the cessation of cash social benefits from them young adults over the next two decades increased the number of criminal charges by 20%. Growth has focused on what the authors call “income-generating crimes” such as theft, theft, fraud / forgery and prostitution. As a result of the increase in criminal charges, the annual probability of imprisonment increased by 60%. The impact of this income withdrawal on participation in criminal justice persisted for more than two decades.

The researchers found that the impact of the change was heterogeneous. While some people disqualified from the 18-year income support program responded by saying they worked more in the official labor market, a much larger proportion responded by participating in crime to make up for lost income. In response to the loss of benefits, young people were twice as likely to be charged with an income-generating crime than they were to have a permanent job.

While each person removed from the program in 1996 saved the government some costs on SSI and Medicaid over the next two decades, each removal also created additional costs for police, court, and imprisonment. According to the authors, only the administrative costs of the crimes were almost eliminated cost savings about removing young people from the program.

“Traditionally, economists talk about the effects of income from social security programs in the context of the official labor market – that welfare hinders work,” – said the authors of the article Manassi Deschpande and Michael Mueller-Smith. “We find that the effect of income from social benefits can also be seen in the reduction of criminal activity. In fact, in the context of SSI, monetary well-being has a much greater disincentive effect on criminal activity than at official work ”.

The document is entitled “Does Welfare Prevent Crime? criminal justice the results of youth removed from SSI ”.

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Additional information:
Manasi Despande and others, does prosperity prevent crime? the results of juvenile criminal justice removed from the SSI, Quarterly Economic Journal (2022). DOI: 10.1093 / qje / qjac017

Citation: A new study shows that welfare prevents crime, quite dramatically (2022, June 7), obtained June 7, 2022 from

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