An Analysis of Incarceration, Crime, Unemployment and Rural Spaces

An Analysis of Incarceration, Crime, Unemployment and Rural Spaces

This report examines the impact of long-term imprisonment on employment.

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An Analysis of Incarceration, Crime, Unemployment and Rural Spaces
An Analysis of Incarceration, Crime, Unemployment and Rural Spaces

Key Observations:

The proportion of individuals experiencing prison sentences, including for non-violent crimes, is correlated with unemployment at both the Congressional District and State level. This relationship persists regardless of a person’s race/ethnicity or rural/urban location, suggesting prison sentences for non-violent crimes predict unemployment for both urban Black and rural White communities. In conclusion, White-majority rural communities suffer long-term economic and social costs in the same manner as urban Black communities. The long-term impact of incarceration for non-violent crimes increases the chances of unemployment and child poverty.

An Analysis of Incarceration, Crime, Unemployment and Rural Spaces

The current results suggest long-term imprisonment - but not short-term jails - are associated with both unemployment and child poverty. The latter finding is important because it suggests the potential consequences of this relationship may extend beyond merely those for the former offenders. Removal of primary caregivers from the family has straightforward economic impacts on youth left behind. Given a high proportion of former inmates are male, economic deprivation contributes to fatherlessness.

Fatherlessness being a consistent predictor of negative outcomes, an issue true for both Black and White families. As such, policies which can return employed fathers to families is in the national interest.Our data suggest relationships between imprisonment for non-violent crimes and unemployment and child poverty hold regardless of the racial composition of the communities under study. To put it directly, this is not a Black issue or a White issue, nor an urban issue or a rural issue. Rather the relationship between imprisonment and unemployment is consistent across most communities.

An Analysis of Incarceration, Crime, Unemployment and Rural Spaces

Conclusion

Prior research with offender populations has demonstrated links between criminal history and unemployment after release. Our analyses at the societal level are consistent with these individual-level studies, suggesting that incarceration history predicts unemployment and child poverty at the rural as well as urban level. Public policy which improves released offenders’ ability to seek employment has the potential to improve these outcomes, including not only for released offenders but for their families as well.

An Analysis of Incarceration, Crime, Unemployment and Rural Spaces

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