Going It Alone? A Smartphone Study of Social Connectivity and Employment after Prison

Naomi Sugie, Princeton University

Finding work after release from prison is critical for successful reintegration. Although scholarship identifies numerous barriers to employment at reentry, limitations of traditional research methods hamper our understanding about the impact of these obstacles on the actual experiences of reentering individuals. This paper utilizes novel, real-time observed behavioral and self-reported measures from smartphones to investigate the consequence of one theorized barrier to finding work: poor social connectivity. It analyzes whether reentering individuals have small networks and whether they use their contacts to find work. The project follows the daily experiences of 128 parolees, which were sampled from a complete census of releases, over a three-month period in Newark, New Jersey. In contrast to existing perspectives, this paper finds that reentering individuals have large social networks, have relatively high expectations that their contacts will assist with their search, and use their contacts to find work at comparable levels of other groups.

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Presented in Session 55: Incarceration and Economic Outcomes