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In the last decade, a number of states have expanded the jurisdiction of their juvenile courts by increasing the maximum age to 18. Proponents argue that these expansions reduce crime by increasing access to the beneficial features of the juvenile justice system. Critics counter that the expansions risk increasing crime by reducing deterrence. In 2010, Illinois raised the maximum age for juvenile court for offenders who commit a misdemeanor. By examining the effect of this law on juvenile offenders in Chicago, this paper provides the first empirical estimates of the consequences of recent legislative activity to raise the age of criminal majority. Applying a difference-in-differences design with multiple control groups, we find little evidence of an effect. Our results suggest that—contrary to the expectations of both advocates and opponents— increasing the maximum age for juvenile court does not affect juvenile recidivism.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Administration of criminal justice, Juvenile courts, Juvenile delinquents, Recidivism