Sitian Liu, Stanford University

Incarceration of African American Men and the Impacts on Women and Children
Tuesday, 15 January 2019 - 11:30 am to 12:00 pm
Contact information
Contact person: 
Catherine Deri Armstrong
Registration required: 
Cost to attend: 
Free of charge
Event organizer: 
Event language: 
Intended audience: 

Since the early 1970s, the United States has experienced a dramatic surge in impris-onment, especially among African American men. This paper investigates the causal effects of black male incarceration on black women’s marriage and labor market out-comes, as well as its effects on black children’s family structure, long-run educational outcomes, and income. To establish causality, I exploit plausibly exogenous changes in sentencing policies across states and over years, and construct a simulated instru-mental variable for the incarceration rate, using offender-level data on the universe of prisoners admitted to and released from prisons between 1986 and 2009. The instru-ment characterizes how sentencing policies affect incarceration at both the extensive margin (i.e., whether to incarcerate an arrestee) and the intensive margin (i.e., how long to imprison an inmate). First, I find that high incarceration rates of black men negatively affect black women’s marriage outcomes, although they increase the likeli-hood of employment for those with higher education levels. Second, higher black male incarceration rates hurt black children by increasing the likelihood of out-of-wedlock birth and living in a mother-only family, and decreasing the likelihood of having some college education in the long run. Moreover, for individuals who lived in areas with harsher sentencing policies during childhood, the black-white income gap is wider for men conditional on parental income. Third, black men at either the extensive or inten-sive margin of incarceration have different impacts on women and children. The results suggest the consequences of the tough-on-crime policies for inequality and racial gaps, which could be taken into account when reforming sentencing policies.