Elderly Criminals and Aging Populations: Extending the Life Course Perspective

Naomi Sugie, Princeton University

The age-crime curve—with a peak in early adulthood and decreasing rates in older age—is a well-established “social fact.” Theories that explain criminal offending over the life course were developed under this assumption and many rely on biological factors to explain desistance in older age. The case of Japan, which has experienced increasing elderly arrest rates over the last decade, challenges these theories. In this paper, the author extends the life-course perspective on crime and suggests that transitions in later life explain elderly onset. For men, marital status and economic hardship are significantly associated with arrest rates. For women, economic factors are not related; rather, marital status and living situation are important. The author suggests that social and economic transitions in older age may be as significant to onset as they are to desistance, and that the meaning of life transitions may depend on context.

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Presented in Poster Session 2