The Association Between Parental Incarceration and Health, Education, and Economic Outcomes in Young Adulthood

Abstract

Of the more than two million persons incarcerated in U.S. prisons, the majority are also parents to children under the age of 18. A growing body of research has explored the impact of parental incarceration on these children and has consistently found a link between this experience and negative life outcomes. Fewer studies, however, examined the longitudinal impact of parental incarceration on offspring. This analysis attempts to address this shortcoming by exploring the relationship between parental incarceration during childhood and adult outcomes later in life. More specifically, we examine the associations between paternal incarceration during childhood and health, educational, and economic outcomes in young adulthood. Using data from the Add Health, we utilize a series of regression analyses to examine these relationships. Results suggest that parental incarceration is significantly related to a number of outcomes in early adulthood, including educational attainment, physical and mental health, and receipt of public assistance.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We also employ the use of sample weights which help to correct for design effects in the publicly available sample. All analyses were conducted using IBM SPSS Statistics Version 22 and STATA 11.

  2. 2.

    Only 63 respondents reported that there biological mother had ever been jailed. Furthermore, when a measure of parental incarceration was constructed (by combining maternal and paternal incarceration information), only 28 additional respondents were coded as “1” as compared to the paternal incarceration measure. As such, we examine only the impact of paternal incarceration in this study.

  3. 3.

    Items were reverse-coded when appropriate and depended on the wording of the original question.

  4. 4.

    Logit models were used to estimate bivariate relationships between paternal incarceration and dichotomous outcomes while t-tests are reported for the income and health problems measures.

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Acknowledgments

This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

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Correspondence to Holly Ventura Miller.

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Miller, H.V., Barnes, J.C. The Association Between Parental Incarceration and Health, Education, and Economic Outcomes in Young Adulthood. Am J Crim Just 40, 765–784 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-015-9288-4

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Keywords

  • Parental incarceration
  • Paternal incarceration
  • Intergenerational effects of crime