Parental Absence in Childhood and Criminal Behaviour: Prison Data in China
Large-scale rural-to-urban migration has resulted in dramatic changes in Chinese family structure over the past three decades. The barriers to bringing the children of migrants to the cities resulting from China's household registration (hukou) system has resulted in an estimated 61 million children in China being left behind in rural villages when their parents migrate to the cities. This lack of parental care and guidance has given rise to concern about potential social consequence.
This seminar uses unique survey and experimental data from male prison inmates and their comparable non-inmates to examine whether parental absence in childhood is associated with increased criminality in adulthood. We find that parental absence in childhood increases the propensity of grown men to commit crimes. Our experimental data show that being left-behind increases risk-loving behaviours. Being left behind also results in reduced educational attainment. We find no effect on personality traits or time preferences. Both lower educational attainment and more risk-loving behaviour increase the propensity to commit crimes.