MPRC Seminar Series: David Harding
David Harding -Department of Sociology, University of California Berkeley,
"Effects of Incarceration on Employment and Recidivism: Evidence from a Natural Experiment."
About the Talk
Given the dramatic increase in the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. over the last three decades and the high public cost of incarceration compared to other forms of punishment, it is important to understand how incarceration affects criminal offending, as well as offenders' employment prospects when they return from jail or prison, particularly for low-level offenders "on the margin" for whom probation, jail, or other sanctions are potentially appropriate alternatives to incarceration. This project uses a natural experiment that capitalizes on the random assignment of judges to cases to identify the effect of incarceration in prison compared to alternative sentences. We use administrative data on all criminal cases sentenced for felonies in Michigan between 2003 and 2006 and measure outcomes for these offenders over time using new felony convictions to measure recidivism and unemployment insurance records to measure formal employment. Preliminary results suggest substantial negative effects of prison vs. probation on employment but smaller reductions in recidivism that are almost entirely driven by incapacitation.