Incarceration and Household Wealth

Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine
Daniel Schneider, University of California, Berkeley

A large literature documents the deleterious economic consequences of incarceration. But little is known about the consequences of incarceration for household wealth, an indicator of economic wellbeing that may be especially important to the survival of low-income families for whom incarceration is common. In this article, we use individual-level data (from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study) and state-level panel data (from 1985 to 2005) to examine how incarceration is associated with asset accumulation and asset loss among formerly incarcerated men, their romantic partners, and their communities. The individual-level data document that incarceration is negatively associated with vehicle and bank account ownership among men and that the economic consequences of incarceration spill over to the romantic partners of these men. The state-level data document that incarceration rates widen Black-white inequalities in homeownership. Taken together, the results show that the considerable collateral consequences of incarceration may increase inequality in wealth.

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Presented in Session 55: Incarceration and Economic Outcomes