Community Impacts of Mass Incarceration
91 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2022 Last revised: 4 May 2022
Date Written: May 3, 2022
Student achievement is lower in communities with high incarceration rates. To investigate this relationship, we assemble a new dataset which matches students' academic performance to the court records of household members. Exploiting the exogenous turnover of judges (who vary in their tendency to incarcerate), we find that increases in the incarceration rate negatively impact the test scores of children in the community, including those who do not directly experience the incarceration of a household member. To explain this result, we show that (i) direct household exposure to incarceration adversely impacts student test scores and behavioral outcomes, and (ii) these effects spill over onto the academic performance of classmates. While smaller in magnitude per student, spillover effects aggregate to explain the majority of the causal relationship between community level incarceration and student achievement. Our results highlight important consequences of incarceration for access to opportunity within entire communities.
JEL Classification: K14, K42, I24, J13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation