The non-criminal consequences of gang membership: impacts on education and employment in the life-course

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Research on the consequences of gang membership is limited mainly to the study of crime and victimization. This gives the narrow impression that the effects of gang membership do not

Research on the consequences of gang membership is limited mainly to the study of crime and victimization. This gives the narrow impression that the effects of gang membership do not cascade into other life domains. This dissertation conceptualized gang membership as a snare in the life-course that disrupts progression in conventional life domains. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Cohort of 1997 (NLSY97) data were used to examine the effects of adolescent gang membership on the nature and patterns of educational attainment and employment over a 12-year period in the life-course. Variants of propensity score weighting were used to assess the effects of gang joining on a range of outcomes pertaining to educational attainment and employment. The key findings in this dissertation include: (1) selection adjustments partially or fully confounded the effects of gang joining; despite this (2) gang joiners had 70 percent the odds of earning a high school diploma and 42 percent the odds of earning a 4-year college degree than matched individuals who avoided gangs; (3) at the 11-year mark, the effect of gang joining on educational attainment exceeded one-half year; (4) gang joiners made up for proximate deficits in high school graduation and college matriculation, but gaps in 4-year college degree and overall educational attainment gained throughout the study; (5) gang joiners were less likely to be employed and more likely to not participate in the labor force, and these differences accelerated toward the end of the study; (6) gang joiners spent an additional one-third of a year jobless relative to their matched counterparts; and (7) the cumulative effect of gang joining on annual income exceeded $14,000, which was explained by the patterning of joblessness rather than the quality of jobs. The theoretical and policy implications of these findings, as well as directions for future research, are addressed in the concluding chapter of this dissertation.