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Differential Effects of Adult Court Transfer on Juvenile Offender Recidivism

Prior research indicates that adolescent offenders transferred to adult court are more likely to recidivate than those retained in the juvenile system. The studies supporting this conclusion, however, are limited in addressing the issue of heterogeneity among transferred adolescents. This study estimates the effect of transfer on later crime using a sample of 654 serious juvenile offenders, 29% of whom were transferred. We use propensity score matching to reduce potential selection bias, and we partition the sample on legal characteristics to examine subgroup effects. We find an overall null effect of transfer on re-arrest, but evidence of differential effects of transfer for adolescents with different offending histories. These results suggest that evaluating the effects of transfer for all transferred adolescents together may lead to misguided policy conclusions.