Staying in school longer doesn’t make you richer – unless you’re in the Mob

An extra year in education boosts earnings for those involved in organised crime, study suggests

Staying in school longer does not necessarily make you richer – unless you are a member of the Mafia, new research suggests.

A British study looking at the effects of changes to the school leaving age in the 1970s has revealed that spending an extra year in school resulted in a lifetime earnings loss of up to £45,000 over a 35-year period.

But another research paper – looking at the business success of 400 members of the Italian-American Mafia finds that, for mobsters who are “business criminals”, the opposite may be the case.

Fraudulent activities

It says that spending an extra year in school gave them a 16 per cent increase in earnings from crimes such as fraud, embezzlement and counterfeiting.

The British study, from the universities of Bath and Westminster, uses data from the Office for National Statistics to examine the year-by-year impact of raising the school leaving age from 15 to 16 in 1972.

It then compares the earnings of those born shortly before and after the reform.

It finds that those who stayed on the extra year had significantly lower wages during the first part of their working lives and that, on average, men with this additional education had lower earnings until they were in their mid thirties.

The authors said the findings show the importance of ensuring that there were clear links between education and the labour market.

The study looking at the Mafia, carried out by Essex University and the University of California, Merced, examined data on the Italian-American Mafia drawn from the 1940 US population census. It also looked at 1960s records belonging to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

The study, due to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference in Brighton, concludes: “The Mafia business is usually a mix of legal and illegal activities.

“For illegal activities like racketeering, extortion, loan sharking, etc, skills acquired in education, like the ability to process numbers, to think logically, etc, might indeed increase with education and be necessary for success in these Mafia roles.”

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