Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Criminal Justice

Degree Program

Criminal Justice, PhD

Committee Chair

Keeling, Deborah

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Swartz, Kristin

Committee Member

Andreescu, Viviana

Committee Member

Navarro, John

Author's Keywords

gangs, life course; within-individual changes; offending


Researchers have established that joining a gang exposes individuals to factors and environments that promote and increase antisocial and illegal behaviors, which decrease after leaving the gang (Decker & Van Winkle, 1994; Melde & Esbensen, 2014; Thornberry, Krohn et al., 1993). Scholars, by analyzing qualitative data, bivariate statistics, and by comparing gang members with non-gang members, have found that as individuals join and leave a gang they experience changes in the frequency with which they carry firearms, sell drugs, and engage in property crimes (Bjerregaard & Lizotte, 1995; Hagedorn, 1994; Thornberry et al., 1993). Researchers also have established that within-individuals’ earnings from general delinquency vary as they enter, continue, and leave the gang (Augustyn et al., 2019). The existing literature, however, has not quantitively measured within-individuals’ variations in earnings derived from specific forms of crime, or changes in the frequency with which they sell drugs or carry firearms as they transition through stages in the gang. This study addresses these gaps in the literature by analyzing, from a life-course perspective and utilizing mixed-effects models, seven waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – 1997 (NLSY97) to explore vi whether within-individuals’ likelihood of generating income from property crimes, theft, and selling drugs, and the amount of income generated from these crimes vary as they enter, continue, and leave the gang. Additionally, this dissertation analyzes whether within-individuals’ likelihood of selling drugs and of carrying a handgun, and the frequency with which they engage in these behaviors vary as individuals transition through stages in the gang, that is, through their “life course” of gang membership. Results from this dissertation showed that gang membership was associated with higher within-individuals’ probabilities of generating income, and higher income generated from drug sales, theft, property crimes, and a combination of these activities. Gang membership was also associated with higher within-individuals’ likelihood and frequency of selling drugs and carrying a handgun. Additionally, results showed that within-individuals’ probabilities of generating income from most of the crimes analyzed increased as youth entered and continued in a gang. Joining and continuation in a gang was also associated with higher amounts of income generated from crime, selling drugs and carrying a handgun.

Included in

Criminology Commons