The Intergenerational Effects of Parental Incarceration

75 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2019

See all articles by Will Dobbie

Will Dobbie

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Hans Gronqvist

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

Date Written: August 1, 2019

Abstract

We estimate the causal effects of parental incarceration on children’s short- and long-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 a significant increase in teen crime and significant decreases in educational attainment and adult employment. The effects are concentrated among children from the most disadvantaged families, where criminal convictions increase by 10 percentage points, high school graduation decreases by 25 percentage points, and employment at age 25 decreases by 29 percentage points. In contrast, there are no detectable effects among children from more advantaged families. These results suggest that the incarceration of parents with young children may significantly increase the intergenerational persistence of poverty and criminal behavior, even in affluent countries with extensive social safety nets.

Suggested Citation

Dobbie, Will and Gronqvist, Hans and Niknami, Susan and Palme, Marten and Priks, Mikael, The Intergenerational Effects of Parental Incarceration (August 1, 2019). HKS Working Paper No. RWP19-031, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3491857 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3491857

Will Dobbie (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Hans Gronqvist

Stockholm University ( email )

Universitetsvägen 10
Stockholm, 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

Stockholms universitet
Stockholm, 106 91
Sweden

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