The Intergenerational Effects of Parental Incarceration

74 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2018

See all articles by Will Dobbie

Will Dobbie

Princeton University

Hans Grönqvist

Stockholm University

Susan Niknami

Stockholm University

Marten Palme

Stockholm University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Mikael Priks

Stockholm University - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: January 2018

Abstract

We estimate the causal effect of parental incarceration on children’s medium-run outcomes using administrative data from Sweden. Our empirical strategy exploits exogenous variation in parental incarceration from the random assignment of criminal defendants to judges with different incarceration tendencies. We find that the incarceration of a parent in childhood leads to significant increases in teen crime and pregnancy and a significant decrease in early-life employment. The effects are concentrated among children from the most disadvantaged families, where teen crime increases by 18 percentage points, teen pregnancy increases by 8 percentage points, and employment at age 20 decreases by 28 percentage points. In contrast, there are no detectable effects among children from more advantaged families. These results imply that the incarceration of parents with young children may increase the intergenerational persistence of poverty and criminal behavior, even in affluent countries with extensive social safety nets.

Suggested Citation

Dobbie, Will and Grönqvist, Hans and Niknami, Susan and Palme, Marten and Priks, Mikael, The Intergenerational Effects of Parental Incarceration (January 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24186, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3101990

Will Dobbie (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

Hans Grönqvist

Stockholm University

Universitetsvägen 10
Stockholm, SE-106 91
Sweden

Susan Niknami

Stockholm University ( email )

Marten Palme

Stockholm University - Department of Economics ( email )

Universitetsvägen 10 A
House A, floor 4 and 7
Frescati, Stockholm
Sweden
+46163307 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Mikael Priks

Stockholm University - Department of Economics ( email )

Universitetsvägen 10 A
House A, floor 4 and 7
Frescati, Stockholm
Sweden

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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