Prison, Race and Space: The Impact of Incarceration on Career Trajectories and Labor Market Outcomes

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Title: Prison, Race and Space: The Impact of Incarceration on Career Trajectories and Labor Market Outcomes
Author: Johnson, Kecia Renee
Advisors: Melvin Thomas, Committee Member
Rodney Engen, Committee Member
Patricia McCall, Committee Member
Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, Committee Chair
Abstract: There are a number of reasons to expect that incarceration will have long-term, negative consequences for economic/labor market success, and that the consequences may be especially acute for minority ex-offenders. This study replicates and extends Bruce Western's research on the impact of incarceration for wage mobility. I integrate Western's life course approach to examining the impact of incarceration with a discussion of stratification processes that produce inequality in employment and earnings outcomes. I hypothesize that incarceration results in career earnings penalties over and above those associated with foregone human capital accumulation. I suspect that incarceration contributes to a decline in earnings for minority ex-offenders. At the individual level, I replicate Western's research by estimating fixed-effects models to examine wages across the career trajectories of white, Latino and African American men from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth for 1979-1998. When estimating these models, I test whether human capital accumulation that occurs inside or outside the labor market mediates the incarceration-earnings relationship. Furthermore, I examine how local labor market characteristics influence ex-offender career trajectories. I propose that prison records, race/ethnicity and spatial characteristics such as, violent crime rates, unemployment rates, minority concentration, and residential segregation influence the job prospects of workers within metropolitan areas. At the spatial level, I estimate random effects models to examine how local labor market characteristics shape the earnings trajectories of white, Latino and African American male ex-offenders. The individual level results supported the hypotheses that incarceration has a negative effect on earnings and that ex-offenders have lower earnings trajectories than non-offenders. This study did not replicate Western's finding that the earnings penalty experienced by those who had been incarcerated varies by race/ethnicity. The spatial analysis results suggest that the prison effect on wages is not influenced by the spatial characteristics associated with the local labor market. However, the results indicate that the spatial characteristics of the labor market influence race/ethnicity wage disparities across the career. This study makes a contribution to the existing literature on the consequences of incarceration by linking attributes of ex-offenders, emergent career dynamics and local labor market prospects within a stratification framework.
Date: 2003-04-22
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology

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