Friday, October 01, 2010

Pew: Incarceration reduces employment, long-term economic growth

A new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts quantifies a lamentable trend that's retarding the economy and employment for millions of Americans: Incarceration strongly correlates to reduced employment and long-term earnings. What's more, the economic harms from imprisonment extend to inmates' children. Here's a remarkable excerpt from Pew's press release:
Incarceration reduces former inmates’ earnings by 40 percent and limits their future economic mobility, according to a new Pew report, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. This is a growing challenge now that 1 in every 28 children in America has a parent behind bars, up from 1 in 125 just 25 years ago.

“People who break the law need to be held accountable and pay their debt to society,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. “At the same time, the collateral costs of locking up 2.3 million people are piling higher and higher. Corrections is the second fastest growing state budget category, and state leaders from both parties are now finding that there are research-based strategies for low-risk offenders that can reduce crime at far less cost than prison.”

The report authored by Pew’s Economic Policy Group and the Pew Center on the States shows that:
  • Before being incarcerated, two-thirds of male inmates were employed and more than half were the primary source of financial support for their children. 
  • After release, former male inmates work nine fewer weeks annually and take home 40 percent less in annual earnings, making $23,500 instead of $39,100. That amounts to an expected earnings loss of nearly $179,000 through age 48 for men who have been incarcerated.
  • Of former inmates who were in the bottom of the earnings distribution in 1986, two-thirds remained there in 2006, twice the number of non-incarcerated men.
“Pew’s past research shows a variety of factors influence economic mobility both within a person’s lifetime and across generations. This report finds that incarceration is a powerful determinant of mobility for both former inmates and their children,” said Scott Winship, research manager of the Economic Mobility Project of Pew’s Economic Policy Group.

Incarceration’s long-term economic repercussions are felt by increasing numbers of families and communities now that 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, equaling 1 in 100 adults. Up from 500,000 in 1980, this marks more than a 300 percent increase in the United States’ incarcerated population.

Collateral Costs details the concentration of incarceration among men, the young, the uneducated and African Americans. One in 87 working-aged white men is in prison or jail compared with 1 in 36 Hispanic men and 1 in 12 African American men. Today, more African American men aged 20 to 34 without a high school diploma or GED are behind bars (37 percent) than are employed (26 percent).

The report also shows more than 2.7 million minor children now have a parent behind bars, or 1 in every 28.  For African American children the number is 1 in 9, a rate that has more than quadrupled in the past 25 years.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Grits for unceasingly opposing the forces of darkness.

Anonymous said...

Yes this is very bad, see Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”. We are one nation under arrest and its going on right under our noses. More so for the ancestors of ex slaves. Seems to me our country should have spent more time civilizing ex slaves after the Civil War than to continuously try to dream up new ways to keep them and their offspring enslaved to the proverbial man. This war on the American people in the name of war on drugs is decimating our country. And for what, to keep the ancestors of ex slaves in their place. Instead of mass incarcerating them how about mass civilizing them. It could save us millions and stop the violence at pee wee football games. Isn’t it time for America’s White Anglo Saxon Protestant community to free the slaves. And how about throw in some reparations, that will stimulate our schlock driven economy.

Unknown said...

Excellent post. It highlights the way in which the retributive nature of our criminal justice system is slowly decimating our society, economically and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Our criminal justice system is slowly decimating our society.

They are not in prison for what they did. They weren't arrested for committing violent crimes but they were randomly incarcerated by an evil society.

All those people who claim they were assaulted, raped or robbed are lying!!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

5:37, don't be silly. Only you said anything about an "evil society." Also, around half of TDCJ inmates are there on non-violent offenses. The question isn't their guilt or innocence (no one but you said victims were lying) but the cost-effectiveness of keeping them there vs. the cost of the crime prevented, a comparison calculated in this paper by Bill Spelman, one of the premier researchers on the subject, who concludes that:

"Estimates vary widely, but the marginal prison bed seems to prevent somewhtere between two and seven crimes, which saves potential victims between $4,000 and $19,000 per year.

"But note the details: If each prison bed reduces costs by no more than $19,000, but costs us $20,000 to $40,000, then do we need this many beds? Clearly not, and it's not (too) difficult to use current estimates of the crime-control effectiveness of prison, the costs of crime to victims and nonvictims, and the costs of prison to show that we overshot the mark sometime in the early 1990s. Enormous cutbacks - reductions of 50% or more in the prison population - are not difficult to justify and would probably save the US public billions of dollars each year. Certainly there is little economic justification for continuing to build."

1:32, we're now at a point where 1 in 22 adult Texans are in prison, jail, on probation or parole. Though black folks are disproportionately incarcerated, they are also disproportionately victims and perpetrators of violent crimes, particularly murder. (The disparity is much less easily explained away for drug crimes, where there is significant racial profiling and disproportionate enforcement.) By the time nearly 5% of the population is under supervision of the justice system, though, it's not just a racial question anymore, by a longshot, it's a systemic one that affects everybody - these days even white collar types, who for example are now among the leading champions of reining in prosecutorial misconduct. It's tempting for liberals to attribute all to race, but when you focus on the data there's really a lot more going on there.

Anonymous said...

Before being incarcerated, two-thirds of male inmates were employed and more than half were the primary source of financial support for their children.

Oh yeah? How many of them even knew the names of their children?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@8:18, presumably at least the half who were their kids' primary source of financial support.

Anonymous said...

Who is the primary source of financial support for children?

March 22, 2010

According to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau reports, black females ages 35 to 44 are the only American women in their child-bearing years with lower marriage rates than men of the same race or ethnicity. By their early 40s, 31 percent of black women have never been wives, whereas 9 percent of white women, 11 percent of Asian women and 12 percent of Hispanic women have never been married.

The outlook for the traditional family is also bleaker for black Texans, who have the state's highest divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services figures.

How often do you see a black female with a black male in public?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:04 - If it's true that "By their early 40s, 31 percent of black women have never been wives," then conversely 69% of them have been. That data doesn't contradict the point made by Pew at all which wasn't that all prisoners were providing for a family, but many were until they were incarcerated.

Anonymous said...

You will do anything to deliberately distort the truth.