Research on the consequences of mass imprisonment has shown just how common and unequally distributed the experience of imprisonment is among adult men and how common and unequally distributed parental imprisonment is among children. However, data quality prevents the estimation of the causal effects of incarceration on social outcomes. One particular problem is high survey attrition among those experiencing incarceration, which may bias estimates of the effects of paternal incarceration on children.
For maternal incarceration, the linkage of administrative data across institutions offers an opportunity to estimate the consequences of maternal incarceration by linking data on mothers and their children with certainty and with virtually no attrition, providing more plausibly causal estimates of effects. Analyses using linked administrative data to estimate the effects of paternal incarceration on children, however, have been restricted to a few European countries.
Sociologist Christopher Wildeman and economist Maria Fitzpatrick will link administrative data from New York City birth certificates to records of women’s incarceration in NYC and estimate the associations between maternal incarceration and maternal and infant health outcomes. They will also link administrative data from NYC birth certificates to men’s incarceration and provide an indirect estimate of what proportion of ever-incarcerated fathers are missing from the linked data because they are not reported on birth certificates. Finally, they will use the linked administrative data on paternal incarceration to estimate the association between paternal incarceration and maternal and child birth outcomes. The longer-term goal is to link these data with other data on children’s outcomes, including child welfare system contact, educational outcomes, and juvenile justice outcomes.