The Role of Ethnicity in Criminal Behavior

Dr Kabir Dasgupta, Dr Andre Diegmann, Prof Tom Kirchmaier, Dr Alexander Plum1

1Auckland University Of Technology


In this paper we argue that ethnicities react very differently to major life events like the birth of a child. This has important implications as we implicitly argue that one-size-fits-all policy conclusion on crime reduction and otherwise are probably misguided. The paper is based on precise administrative data from New Zealand and complemented by survey data from the U.S., and exploits a novel identification strategy proposed by Dustmann and Landersø (2018) by using the random variation of the gender of their first child. We were able to demonstrate a stark ethnic divide in our results. For NZ Europeans, total convictions drop by 5% points for up to ten years after birth and can be as much as 13% points for those with any pre-birth criminal record. However, we find that any estimates for the Maori population are close to zero and not statistically significant. Differential effects of a similar order of magnitude is shown between the black and white part of the population in the U.S. We also explore additional effects of the birth of a first child on labor market and social outcomes, again finding that only NZ European fathers experiences higher average wages, more months in employment, and higher accumulated income. Overall, these results point to differential behavior across ethnic groups with important policy implications.


Alexander Plum joined the NZ Work Research Institute in November 2017. He is an applied econometrician with a focus on utilising linked administrative data (in particular the Integrated Data Infrastructure from Stats NZ).

Alexander has worked on several commissioned projects on various topics, including work for MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) and the Human Rights Commission. His projects deal with low pay and in-work poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand. Furthermore, he is the principal investigator of two in-work poverty studies.

Alexander is also an associate investigator on two major grants. The first one is a three-year project funded by the Health Research Council, entitled “Ethnic differences in the uptake of healthcare services: A microanalysis”. The aim of this study is to add to the knowledge base regarding barriers and enablers to the uptake of key healthcare services for preschool children. The second project is an MBIE Endeavour Fund, running five years and entitled “The Expression, experience and transcendence of low-skill in Aotearoa New Zealand”. The focus of this research is to explore life trajectories for 1.3 million adults living with low literacy and/or numeracy skills and to identify potential policy tools for intervention.