Thursday, February 9, 2012

Does Military Service Lead to Crime?

A new working paper (ungated version) by Jason M. Lindo and Charles F. Stoecker examines the link between military service (in Vietnam) and crime. It has some bad news: “We find that military service increases the probability of incarceration for violent crimes among whites, with point estimates suggesting an impact of 0.27 percentage points.”  The authors also find offsetting impacts on nonviolent crime and hypothesize that “military service may not change an individual’s propensity to commit crime but instead may cause them to commit more-severe crimes involving violence.”
And this study didn't even include the impact of the Iraq war.

I am generally skeptical of empirical studies "proving" theories, but this study does seem to back up the intuitive thought that if you teach young men how to be violent, some may not be able to turn that off like a light switch.


  1. Whatever. Men are already automatically suspect of being rapists and pedophiles.

  2. My experience is that many who enter military service is that they have below average education, are less literate, and tend to settle arguments forcefully. Furthermore I find many to have a confrontational way. All of these factors, contribute to anti social behavior upon after exiting the military.

    Many employers are reluctant to hire veterans. If one is going into the miliary, I encourage one to consider it to be a life long committment.

  3. Hogwash!
    Military personnel during Vietnam included a large percentage of draftees. I would hypothesize that young men forced against their will to receive combat training and then exposed to the horrors of war have a higher propensity for violent crime. With a force made up of all volunteers I think it is less likely returning vets would commit crimes.

  4. Voluntary or not, combat hardened grunts may not easily readjust to civilian life. Even worse should they become cops or join the SWAT.