Proportion of adolescent girls can reduce crime: study

An increase in proportion of girls in the adolescent age-group could lead to a decline in crime, a new study claims.

According to the ‘The Effect of Age-Specific Sex Ratios on Crime: Instrumental Variable Estimates from India’, a sex ratio in favour of women should lead to a reduction in crime as parents of the over-represented gender increase savings and work effort.

The study, which was done for National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) by acadmecians Rashmi Barua, Prarthna Goel and Renuka Sane, arrived at the conclusion by examining sex ratios corresponding to age groups 10-16 years and 20-26 years and national crime statstics.


It says, “an increase in 10-16 age sex ratio by one female per 1,000 males leads to a 1.5% decline in violent crime, and a decline of almost 1% for both non-violent and property crimes…the imbalance in the sex ratio in India between 1961 and 2001 have resulted in a 28.5% increase in violent crimes and 21% increase in non-violent and property crimes.”

The study says an improvement in sex ratio in favour of women not only has direct economic benefits but also leads to lower crime rates.

Finding no “direct” evidence to suggest that shortage of brides leads to rise in crime, the study says that this theory rests on the argument that marriage provides stability to men and lesser number of marriageable women generate conflict and violence among men.

“On the other hand, our results suggest that it is the shortage of adolescent age-group girls relative to adolescent age-group boys that leads to higher crime. Based on existing economic theory, we propose that this result could be driven by the institutional set up of dowry in India that makes parents of girls increase savings and work effort,” Baruah told DH.

Baruah cites two recent studies that argue that as the sex ratio “improves in favour of women among the pre-marital/adolescent cohort, parents of daughters might increase savings (and labour supply) in countries (such as India) where the bride side has to bear a disproportionate share of marriage related expenses”.

“We conjecture, based on existing literature, that this could explain the decline in crime as the income associated with increased work should reduce the motivation to commit crime for economic benefit,” Baruah says.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 27, 2017)

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