DP8646 | The Effect of Education on Criminal Convictions and Incarceration: Causal Evidence from Micro-data

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This paper studies the causal effect of educational attainment on conviction and incarceration using Sweden's compulsory schooling reform as an instrument for years of schooling and a 25 percent random sample from Sweden's Multigenerational Register matched with more than 30 years of administrative crime records. The first stage of the analysis employs a differences-in-differences design to account for the non-random implementation of the reform across municipalities, and finds that exposure to the reform increased average educational attainment by 0.28 years for males and 0.16 years for females. Our 2SLS estimates indicate that more schooling has a significant negative effect on convictions and incarceration at both the extensive and intensive margins. These effects are generally seen for both males and females. Specifically, one additional year of schooling decreases the likelihood of incarceration by 16 percent for males and the likelihood of conviction by 7.5 and 11 percent for males and females, respectively. In addition, we find that the effect of education on crime persists across birth cohorts, throughout the life cycle, and across crime categories.