Criminal Justice, Self-Sufficiency, and the Life Course: Social and Economic Insecurity After Incarceration and Conviction
Bryan, Brielle Eileen
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AbstractThis dissertation examines previously unexplored aspects of the socioeconomic wellbeing of individuals who have passed through the American criminal justice system, expanding upon prior work both substantively and temporally. First, I consider housing stability among a group of individuals overlooked in prior research on the consequences of criminal justice contact: the 12 million Americans who have been convicted of a felony but never incarcerated. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort, I compare the experiences of individuals with a felony conviction but no history of incarceration to those of formerly-incarcerated individuals as a means of disentangling the effects of incarceration from the independent effect of felon status. I find that never-incarcerated individuals with felony convictions, like formerly-incarcerated individuals, experience an elevated risk of housing instability and residential mobility relative to their never-convicted peers, even when likely mechanisms like financial resources and behavioral characteristics are controlled for. In Chapter 3, I use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort (NLSY79) to examine how formerly-incarcerated individuals interact with social safety net institutions by examining usage of six programs: cash welfare (AFDC/TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), disability insurance, unemployment insurance, food stamps/SNAP, and the earned income tax credit (EITC). Contrary to prior research that suggests criminal justice contact suppresses engagement with record-keeping institutions, I find no evidence that formerly-incarcerated individuals avoid safety net programs with greater administrative burden. Instead, I find that formerly-incarcerated white individuals appear to engage in assistance-seeking behavior with regard to means-tested program, receiving benefits more often than their observably similar never-incarcerated counterparts. I also find that, regardless of race, formerly-incarcerated individuals are less likely to benefit from contributory social insurance programs like disability and unemployment. In Chapter 4, I examine long-term total income trajectories over the life course following incarceration. Using NLSY79 data, I examine the value and composition of total income packages before and after incarceration, considering how earned income, spouse income, transfer income, and other income change following incarceration and across the life course. I find that all types of income decline significantly following incarceration, but some recover, eventually returning to pre-incarceration levels. Using cluster analysis, I also find that, while the modal formerly-incarcerated man has very low income and limited income growth across the life course, approximately one in five have income trajectories and levels similar to those of never-incarcerated men.
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