A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of the Impact of Public Assistance on Prisoner Recidivism

Original Paper

Abstract

Introduction

The Welfare Act of 1996 banned welfare and food stamp eligibility for felony drug offenders and gave states the ability to modify their use of the law. Today, many states are revisiting their use of this ban, searching for ways to decrease the size of their prison populations; however, there are no empirical assessments of how this ban has affected prison populations and recidivism among drug offenders. Moreover, there are no causal investigations whatsoever to demonstrate whether welfare or food stamp benefits impact recidivism at all.

Objective

This paper provides the first empirical examination of the causal relationship between recidivism and welfare and food stamp benefits

Methods

Using a survival-based estimation, we estimated the impact of benefits on the recidivism of drug-offending populations using data from the National Corrections Reporting Program. We modeled this impact using a difference-in-difference estimator within a regression discontinuity framework.

Results

Results of this analysis are conclusive; we find no evidence that drug offending populations as a group were adversely or positively impacted by the ban overall. Results apply to both male and female populations and are robust to several sensitivity tests. Results also suggest the possibility that impacts significantly vary over time-at-risk, despite a zero net effect.

Conclusion

Overall, we show that the initial passage of the drug felony ban had no measurable large-scale impacts on recidivism among male or female drug offenders. We conclude that the state initiatives to remove or modify the ban, regardless of whether they improve lives of individual offenders, will likely have no appreciable impact on prison systems.

Keywords

Welfare Food stamps Drugs Ban Prison Recidivism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy Luallen
    • 1
  • Jared Edgerton
    • 1
  • Deirdre Rabideau
    • 1
  1. 1.Abt AssociatesCambridgeUSA

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