The effect of school closures on juvenile crime in Finland during the COVID-19 pandemic

No Thumbnail Available
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
The most significant public health measure enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic concerning juveniles was arguably school closures. To limit social interactions among youths, in-person classes were canceled and instruction was moved online. As the pandemic eased and worsened, municipalities across Finland opened and closed schools again. While this may have helped to combat the spread of the virus, there is a concern for other negative effects resulting from these closures. This thesis examines one of them: the school closures' contemporaneous impact on juvenile crime in Finland. To do so, weekly data on juvenile crime for each municipality is merged with data on school closures. The driving force behind the theory of school preventing crime is incapacitation which in short means keeping adolescents busy and supervised in schools prevents them from committing crimes. However, existing literature on incapacitation is sparse due to a lack of data and proper empirical settings. The small number of existing studies stresses the importance of analyzing the effect on different types of crime. In general, increasing school attendance tends to raise the level of violent crime and decrease property crime. The increase in violent crime is attributed to the concentration effect, meaning school increases the number of potentially volatile interactions among adolescents leading to an increase in violent crime. While school closures seem to reduce property crime committed by high schoolers whereas violent juvenile crime remains constant, the results obtained are statistically insignificant. Importantly, this is only the concurrent effect of school closures on juvenile crime. The impact on learning results, physical and mental health, as well as crime, in the long term might be negative. Clearly, more research is needed for definitive policy recommendations in case of a possible next pandemic.
Thesis advisor
Huttunen, Kristiina
crime, juveniles, education, school, school closures, COVID-19
Other note