Ex-Offenders and the Conformist Alternative: A Job Quality Model of Work and Crime

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Criminologists from diverse theoretical perspectives have long asserted that the quality of employment is more strongly associated with criminal behavior than its presence or absence. By this argument, "good jobs" or "meaningful work" are necessary to induce offenders to desist from crime. This paper constructs a satisfaction-based measure of job quality using data from the National Supported Work Demonstration and the 1977 Quality of Employment Survey and tests whether employment in high quality jobs reduces the likelihood of criminal behavior among offenders. After statistical corrections for selection into employment, job quality is found to reduce the likelihood of economic and non-economic criminal behavior among a sample of released high-risk offenders. None of the most salient alternative explanations - sample selection, human capital accumulation, personal expectations, external labor market effects, or prior criminality - appear to diminish the job quality effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-149
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1999


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