Raising Age of Majority Doesn’t Affect Teen Crime Rates

February 25, 2016

In the criminal justice world, there’s an ongoing debate about whether to increase the age of majority, the point at which an adolescent can no longer be tried in the juvenile legal system and instead must be tried as an adult. Advocates of raising this threshold say it’s unfair to process juveniles in the adult system because their brains are not fully mature. Critics of the idea say it may lead to increased recidivism among adolescents. 

According to new research from criminology professor Charles Loeffler and colleagues, both groups may be wrong.

“For misdemeanor crimes, whether you process a juvenile as a juvenile or as an adult, it’s unlikely to reduce or increase reoffending,” Loeffler says.

Loeffler, the Jerry Lee Assistant Professor of Criminology, and Ben Grunwald, a Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School who earned his doctorate from Penn, published their results in The Journal of Legal Studies, using data from the Chicago Police Department.

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