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Does Gang Membership Pay? Illegal and Legal Earnings Through Emerging Adulthood

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 57 Issue: 3 Dated: 2019 Pages: 452-480
Date Published
29 pages
This study extended research on the economic effects of gang membership by using a within and between individual analytic design, decomposing gang membership into multiple statuses (i.e., entering a gang, continuously in a gang, leaving a gang, and inactive gang membership), examining legal and illegal earnings simultaneously, and accounting for factors endogenous to gang membership that may contribute to economic achievement.

By using panel data from 1,213 individuals who participated in the Pathways to Desistance Study to conduct a multilevel path analysis, the study found that active gang membership status was unrelated to legal earnings. Alternatively, entering a gang was associated with increased illegal earnings, attributable to changes in delinquent peers and drug use, whereas, leaving a gang had a direct relationship with decreased illegal earnings. These results indicate that the positive economic effect of gang membership (i.e., illegal earnings and total earnings) was short lived and that, on balance, the sum of the gang membership experience did not "pay" in terms of overall earnings. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019