Social mobility and crime: Evidence from a total birth cohort

Jukka Savolainen, Mikko Aaltonen, Marko Merikukka, Reija Paananen, Mika Gissler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This research examined intergenerational educational mobility as an antecedent of criminal offending. Anomie theory and the general theory of crime assume an inverse association between intergenerational mobility and criminal behaviour. In addition, Moffitt's taxonomic theory and general strain theory expect intergenerational continuity in low educational attainment to be especially criminogenic. We examined the hypothesized associations with total birth cohort data from Finland. The results suggest that neither downward nor upward mobility is an important correlate of crime. For most individuals, the educational background of the family of origin was unrelated to offending net of personal attainment. As an important exception, parents' educational attainment buffered the strong positive association between offspring educational marginalization and crime. Among those who did not pursue education beyond comprehensive school, having a parent with minimal educational credentials doubled the risk of serious offending compared with those with university-educated parents. Evidence from multivariate analysis suggests that this interaction effect is related to family adversity and psychological risk characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-183
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015


  • Birth cohort
  • Crime
  • Finland
  • Life course
  • Social mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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