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The Intergenerational Effects of Parental Incarceration

  • Series
  • Speaker(s)
    Hans Gronqvist (Uppsala University, Sweden)
  • Field
    Empirical Microeconomics
  • Location
    Tinbergen Institute Amsterdam, Room 1.01
  • Date and time

    February 26, 2019
    16:00 - 17:30

We estimate the causal effects of parental incarceration on children’s medium-run outcomes using administrative data from Sweden. Our empirical strategy exploits exogenous variation in parental incarceration from the random assignment of criminal defendants to judges with different incarceration tendencies. We find that the incarceration of a parent in childhood leads to significant increases in teen crime and pregnancy and a significant decrease in early-life employment. The effects are concentrated among children from the most disadvantaged families, where teen crime increases by 17 percentage points, teen pregnancy increases by 7 percentage points, and employment at age 20 decreases by 27 percentage points. In contrast, there are no detectable effects among children from more advantaged families. These results suggest that the incarceration of parents with young children may significantly increase the intergenerational persistence of poverty and criminal behavior, even in affluent countries with extensive social
safety nets.

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