The Effect of Paternal Incarceration on Material Hardship

Ofira Schwartz-Soicher, Columbia University
Amanda B. Geller, Columbia University

Experiencing material hardship adversely affects children’s physical and developmental outcomes. Recent increase in incarceration rates among men and high rates of fatherhood among them has raised concerns about the material wellbeing of their families. We use a longitudinal survey of nearly 5,000 urban families to examine the effect of fathers’ incarceration on their families’ experience of material hardship. Controlling for a rich set of potential confounders and using various modeling strategies (Negative Binomial regressions, lagged dependent variables and individual fixed-effects models) we find that the incarceration indeed does increase hardship for families. Our findings suggest that fathers’ incarceration contributes to hardship not only by reducing income, but also by seriously disrupting household relationships and routines. Mothers’ poor personal management skills also exacerbate hardship. We further find the experience of hardship to be deeper among families of the incarcerated as compared to families whose fathers are absent for other reasons.

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Presented in Poster Session 2