The Impact of Mass Incarceration on Poverty

Crime and Delinquency, February 12, 2009

33 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2009 Last revised: 30 Apr 2010

Robert H. DeFina

Villanova University

Lance Hannon

Villanova University - College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Written: February 23, 2009

Abstract

During the past thirty years, U.S. poverty has remained high despite overall economic growth. At the same time, incarceration rates have risen by more than three hundred percent, a phenomenon that many analysts have referred to as mass incarceration. This paper explores whether the mass incarceration of the past few decades might have impeded progress toward poverty reduction. Relying on a state-level panel spanning the years 1980 to 2004, the study measures the impact of incarceration on three different poverty indexes. Estimates are generated using instrumental variable techniques to account for possible simultaneity between incarceration and poverty. The evidence indicates that growing incarceration has significantly increased poverty, regardless of which index is used to gauge poverty. Indeed, the official poverty rate would have fallen considerably during the period had it not been for mass incarceration.

Keywords: Incarceration, Poverty, Social Control, Inequality

Suggested Citation

DeFina, Robert H. and Hannon, Lance, The Impact of Mass Incarceration on Poverty (February 23, 2009). Crime and Delinquency, February 12, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1348049

Robert H. DeFina

Villanova University ( email )

Villanova, PA 19085
United States

Lance Hannon (Contact Author)

Villanova University - College of Liberal Arts and Sciences ( email )

800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

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