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


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


Age when most young thieves tend to stop their pilfering habits


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.

More Must-Reads From TIME

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

You May Also Like