October 15, 2015 5:46 AM EDT

Stealing may be just a phase, according to research by economist Geoffrey Fain Williams of Transylvania University. His study reveals that a surprising number of young people have nabbed something for nothing–but they’re not usually repeat offenders.

1 in 6

Proportion of the 8,000 teens and young adults surveyed who reported stealing something in the past year

$37.50

Median value of a theft; since it was under $50, researchers considered it petty theft

1 in 5

Proportion of males who reported stealing, vs. 1 in 10 females; Williams writes that the numbers may reflect the social stigma of stealing

24

Age when most young thieves tend to stop their pilfering habits

<5%

Percentage of young people who continue to steal for more than a year. Why do they stop? They realize the risk or attain emotional maturity, according to researchers.

–Tanya Basu

This appears in the October 26, 2015 issue of TIME.

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Write to Tanya Basu at tanya.basu@time.com.

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