Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 93–123 | Cite as

Is the Shape of the Age-Crime Curve Invariant by Sex? Evidence from a National Sample with Flexible Non-parametric Modeling

  • Siyu Liu
Original Paper



Prior theoretical scholarship makes strong assumptions about the invariance of the age-crime relationship by sex. However, scant research has evaluated this assumption. This paper asks whether the age-crime curve from age 12–30 is invariant by sex using a contemporary, nationally representative sample of youth, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort (NLSY97).


To address the limitations of the existing empirical literature, a novel localized modeling approach is used that does not require a priori assumptions about the shape of the age-crime curve. With a non-parametric method—B-spline regression, the study models self-report criminal behavior and arrest by sex using age as the independent variable, and its cubic spline terms to accommodate different slopes for different phases of the curve.


The study shows that males and females have parallel age-crime curves when modeled with self-report criminal behavior variety score but they have unique age-crime in the frequency of self-report arrest. Group-based trajectory analysis is then used to provide a deeper understanding of heterogeneity underlying the average trends. The onset patterns by sex are quite similar but the post-peak analyses using the early onset sample reveal different patterns of desistance for arrest by sex.


The study found evidence of relatively early and faster desistance of arrest among females but little difference exists for the variety of criminal behaviors. Implications and future directions are discussed.


Age-crime curve Sex Non-parametric Spline regression Group-based trajectory modeling 



The author would like to thank Shawn Bushway, Justin Pickett and the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript for their advice and helpful comments on this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeUniversity at AlbanyAlbanyUSA

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