The United States greatly expanded the use of incarceration as a criminal sanction during the last three decades. Researchers have begun to examine the effects of incarceration on the socioeconomic outcomes of people who have spent time behind bars. This study uses data collected for the Fragile Families Study to examine the effects of incarceration on earnings, employment, marriage and cohabitation for a cohort of new fathers in Oakland, California and Austin, Texas. We examine the extent to which the disruptive features of incarceration retard and impede the development and accumulation of human capital assets that are positively associated with labor market outcomes. After controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, fathers who were incarcerated earned 53 percent less than those who were not; they worked four weeks less in the previous year, and averaged 3.5 fewer hours of work per week. Incarcerated fathers experienced a five percent reduction in annual earnings for each month they were confined. Age of first incarceration was a significant factor in poor labor market outcomes. Following the lead of economists who have linked poor labor market outcomes with family formation, we examine the hypothesis that fathers who were incarcerated would also be less likely to form stable families. We found incarcerated fathers were 30 percent as likely to be married and 53 percent as likely to be cohabiting as fathers who were never incarcerated. (Author abstract)
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