This volume, the first in a new series by the National Bureau of Economic Research that compares labor markets in different countries, examines social and labor market policies in Canada and the United States during the 1980s. It shows that subtle differences in unemployment compensation, unionization, immigration policies, and income maintenance programs have significantly affected economic outcomes in the two countries. For example: -Canada's social safety net, more generous than the American one, produced markedly lower poverty rates in the 1980s. -Canada saw a smaller increase in earnings inequality than the United States did, in part because of the strength of Canadian unions, which have twice the participation that U.S. unions do. -Canada's unemployment figures were much higher than those in the United States, not because the Canadian economy failed to create jobs but because a higher percentage of nonworking time was reported as unemployment. These disparities have become noteworthy as policy makers cite the experiences of the other country to support or oppose particular initiatives.
This paper examines the magnitude of criminal activity among disadvantaged youths in the 1980s. It shows that a large proportion of youths who dropped out of high school, particularly black school dropouts, developed criminal records in the decade; and that those who were incarcerated in 1980 or earlier were much less likely to hold jobs than other youths over the entire decade. The magnitudes of incarceration, probation, and parole among black dropouts, in particular, suggest that crime has become an intrinsic part of the youth unemployment and poverty problem, rather than deviant behavior on the margin. Limited evidence on the returns to crime suggest that with the decline in earnings and employment for less educated young men, crime offers an increasingly attractive alternative.