Examining the Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage: The Effect of Paternal Incarceration among Young Adults in the U.S.

Jerrett Jones, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ellen Dinsmore, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Michael Massoglia, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Since 1980, the number of children with an incarcerated parent has increased eight-fold, approaching 2.7 million. A growing literature has examined their behavioral outcomes into young adulthood, including involvement in the criminal justice system. Research demonstrates that parental imprisonment is a predictor of youth delinquency and arrest. However, few analyses explore whether it also predicts incarceration, nor have they reached a consensus on the role of closeness to the incarcerated parent. Studies in this area are also particularly vulnerable to selection bias. Using a nationally-representative sample of 12,113 young adults from Add Health, results from a logistic regression model show that the odds of being incarcerated are 90% greater among individuals whose father has an incarceration history. We also find that while father-child closeness positively predicts imprisonment, the effect of paternal incarceration is not differentiated by paternal closeness. Finally, propensity score matching results indicate that our findings are not being driven by unobserved heterogeneity.

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Presented in Session 180: Incarcerated, Foster Care, and Juvenile Justice Youth: Development and Outcomes