Dispersing the Crowd: A Natural Experiment of the Effects of the Deconcentration of the Urban Underclass

David Kirk

University of Texas at Austin

April 1, 2014

Even during the 1990s as concentrated poverty briefly dissipated in the United States, one segment of the urban underclass continued to expand rapidly — the prison population. Indeed mass incarceration has artificially hidden the true extent of inequality and poverty in the country. Roughly 700,000 prisoners are released from incarceration each year in the United States, and most end up residing in urban areas, clustered within a select few neighborhoods. The massive rise in the number of returning prisoners combined with the geographic concentration of these ex-prisoners means that select urban neighborhoods have become inundated with individuals who have served time in prison. Through a contagious process, neighborhoods characterized by a concentration of former prisoners likely incubate an environment conducive to crime and subsequent incarceration. Yet what would happen to rates of aberrant behavior if former prisoners were dispersed across geographic space instead of concentrated? Through investigations of national patterns of prisoner reentry as well as a natural experiment focused on post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana, I find that a decrease in the concentration of parolees in a neighborhood leads to a significant decline in the rate of admission to prison for neighborhood residents generally and in the re-incarceration rate for former prisoners specifically. To reduce the emergent consequences of concentrated prisoner reentry, it would be worthwhile to consider policies that disperse the parolee population instead of concentrating it into select neighborhoods.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 50

Keywords: Recidivism, Prisoner Reentry, Natural Experiment, Hurricane Katrina, Concentration Effects

JEL Classification: C3, C9, K42

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Date posted: May 18, 2014  

Suggested Citation

Kirk, David, Dispersing the Crowd: A Natural Experiment of the Effects of the Deconcentration of the Urban Underclass (April 1, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2438067 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2438067

Contact Information

David Kirk (Contact Author)
University of Texas at Austin ( email )
Austin, TX 78712
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/prc/faculty/kirkds
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