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Paternal Incarceration And Children's Risk Of Being Charged By Early Adulthood: Evidence From A Danish Policy Shock*



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In this article, we exploit a Danish criminal justice reform that dramatically decreased the risk of incarceration for individuals convicted of some types of crimes to isolate how having a father who was eligible for a noncustodial sentence under the reform affected a child's risk of ever subsequently being charged with a crime. Specifically, we use a difference‐in‐differences framework to compare all Danish children 12–18 years of age whose fathers were eligible for a noncustodial sentence instead of incarceration under the reform [N = 1,546] with a reference group of children whose fathers were convicted of similar crimes but were ineligible [N = 1,852] in the 2 years surrounding when the reform was enacted [July 1, 2000] as a way of testing the effects of the reform on children's risk of ever being charged with a crime by 22–28 years of age. Our estimates indicate that having a father sentenced under the reform sharply decreased the risk of being charged in the next 10 years for boys but not for girls. Taken together, these results indicate that both paternal criminality and paternal incarceration promote the criminal justice contact of male children and, hence, that paternal incarceration is not solely a symptom of criminality but also a cause of it.