Crime, Punishment and the Measurement of Poverty in the United States, 1979-1997

Dalhousie University Economics Working Paper

42 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2003

See all articles by Ian Irvine

Ian Irvine

Concordia University, Quebec - Department of Economics

Kuan Xu

Dalhousie University - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 2003

Abstract

The rate of incarceration has increased dramatically in the US since 1980. We explore the implications of this increased incarceration on national poverty measurement using micro data for the period 1979-1997. We make use of an as-yet unexplored data set on prisoner earnings, in conjunction with the Current Population Survey to compute earnings of the whole population. It is found that the traditional measurement of poverty, which omits this increased share of the population that has become institutionalized, understates the true degree of poverty in the nineteen nineties to a significant degree. This underestimation has increased during the time period of study. Furthermore, it is the depth of poverty associated with the higher incarceration rate, rather than the higher rate of incarceration alone that has had the greatest impact upon poverty. These results stand in marked contrast to western European economies and Canada.

Keywords: Poverty intensity, crime, incarceration, measurement, decomposition

JEL Classification: I300, I390

Suggested Citation

Irvine, Ian and Xu, Kuan, Crime, Punishment and the Measurement of Poverty in the United States, 1979-1997 (June 2003). Dalhousie University Economics Working Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=423220 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.423220

Ian Irvine

Concordia University, Quebec - Department of Economics ( email )

1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Montreal, Quebec H3G 1MB
Canada

Kuan Xu (Contact Author)

Dalhousie University - Department of Economics ( email )

Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3J5
Canada
902-494-6995 (Phone)
902-494-6917 (Fax)

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