Skip to main content

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

A quantitative evidence research project looking at young peoples experiences of youth custody, educational influences and impacts on labour market outcomes

Project status



1 Mar 2020 to 1 Sep 2022

This project will provide quantitative evidence on which young people are imprisoned, the school experiences that increase the risk of imprisonment and the impact prison has on subsequent labour market outcomes. The youth custody population is disproportionately made up of the most disadvantaged young people. Prison is likely to compound disadvantage, making the transition to adulthood challenging. Between 2008 and 2017, the number of under-18s in custody in England fell by 70%, but this has not been equally distributed among young people: for example, minority ethnic representation among young offenders increased from 25% to 41%. Many young people in custody show extreme disadvantage in literacy, numeracy, school attendance, exclusions, care and mental health. Furthermore, once young people come into contact with the justice system they are likely to do so again and, in the longer term, struggle in the labour market.

This project will set out the key pathways into and out of custody, estimate how aspects of schooling (participation, peers, qualifications and exclusion) affect the probability of being imprisoned and, beyond school, estimate the impact of prison on subsequent labour market outcomes. In so doing, it will inform policy aimed at helping at-risk young people achieve positive transitions.

The research will use the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) dataset, which links education and tax records to observe nearly all young people in England from school to early adulthood. It provides information on background characteristics (e.g. gender, ethnic group, location, disadvantaged status), school experience (e.g. attainment, absences and exclusions, PRU/AP referral, special educational needs) and detailed month-by-month activity status post-16, including months where an individual is in custody. The size of the LEO dataset makes it possible to observe subgroups within the population that are too small to consider using survey data.

Project team



Matt Dickson’s strand of the project examines how participation in education and training post-16 affects the likelihood of experiencing custody in later teenage years. The empirical analysis exploits the raising of the participation age in September 2013 to estimate the effect of additional education and training for the cohorts affected compared to earlier cohorts.

Presentation of findings at the Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2022