New evidence on the monetary value of saving a high risk youth

Mark A. Cohen, Alex R. Piquero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

370 Citations (Scopus)


There is growing interest in crime prevention through early youth interventions; yet, the standard United States response to the crime problem, particularly among juveniles, has been to increase the use and resource allocation allotted toward punishment and incapacitation and away from prevention and treatment. At the same time, longitudinal studies of delinquency and crime have repeatedly documented a strong link between past and future behavior and have identified a small subset of offenders who commit a large share of criminal offenses. These findings suggest that if these offenders can be identified early and correctly and provided with prevention and treatment resources early in the life course, their criminal activity may be curtailed. While researchers have studied these offenders in great detail, little attention has been paid to the costs they exert on society. This paper provides estimates of the cost of crime imposed on society by high risk youth. Our approach follows and builds upon the early framework and basic methodology developed by Cohen (J Quant Criminol 14: 5-33, 1998), by using new estimates of the costs of individual crimes, ones that are more comprehensive and that significantly increased the monetary cost per crime. We also use new estimates on the underlying offending rate for high risk juvenile offenders. We estimate the present value of saving a 14-year-old high risk juvenile from a life of crime to range from 2.6 to 5.3 million. Similarly, saving a high risk youth at birth would save society between 2.6 and 4.4 million.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-49
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Costs of crime
  • Crime policy
  • Criminal careers

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