Date of Award

Summer 2004

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Applied Sociology

Committee Director

Randy Gainey

Committee Member

James Oleson

Committee Member

Judi Caron-Sheppard

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.S62 R67 2004


Research has repeatedly shown that males in the age range of 16 to 24 years account for a disproportionately large volume of crime (Sampson and Laub 1993 ). The armed forces are major employers of young males in this crime-prone age range and could thus play an important role in crime prevention. The military provides many varied opportunities including a highly structured and regimented institution in which rigid behavioral norms and close monitoring are imposed. Some other incentives that service provides include educational opportunities through the" Advanced Individual Training", the GI Bill, in-service tuition assistance, and world-wide travel. All these are available to those who serve in the military and without the military these opportunities may not be available.

This paper examines the relationship between conscription laws (mandatory military or social service) and crime rates across countries. This cross-national study focuses on three major crimes: burglary, robbery, and homicide. In addition to conscription laws several control variables have been included in the analyses are: percent of the labor force that is military, level of civil liberties/freedom, level of industrialization, illiteracy rates, percent of urban population, unemployment rates, percent under the international poverty line, income disparity (measured using the Gini index), and population.

This study assesses the impact of conscription on crime rates by formulating and testing three hypotheses. First, mandatory military service and mandatory military with social service option is negatively related to crime across nations. Secondly, mandatory military service with a social service option has stronger affects on crime than simply mandatory military service. Lastly, both types of mandatory service will be significant when the control variables are included in analyses.

As there are few studies that look into the relation of conscription and crime I believe the findings to have policy implications throughout the world. The findings indicate that mandatory military service is highly related to reducing property crimes (burglary and robbery). This result is consistent with social control theory, in that military service may serve as a process of socialization through which people identify with each other and their community, thus reducing the likelihood of property crime. There appears to be no link between any type of mandatory service and homicide.


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